The steps. Thirty-five steps. Marked with a stencilled address and divided right up the middle by a heavy chain strung through metal posts.
These steps made me angry when I first laid eyes on them; made me doubt the sanity of my realtor. But once I had scaled them, my not quite year-old son wrapped tight in my arms, I marveled at the view and the little oasis of a yard created by the distance of these thirty-five steps.
I carried groceries up these steps. And my son in the little car-seat we always called "the bucket." I taught my not quite two year old son to climb these steps while his sister grew in my belly. I carried my big pregnant body up these steps along with my son and my groceries.
When my daughter was born through an emergency c-section, my doctor came to my house to remove the staples in my incision. He didn't want me to have to walk down all of those steps.
Now that my children are older, the steps take less time to climb or more depending upon the day. Theo runs up the stairs while Sadie dawdles somewhere in the middle visiting with a line of ants or admiring a fallen leaf.
These steps place distance between my family and the slightly grimy street below. As I climb them, I leave behind the broken glass, bits of scattered trash and the constant graffiti dialog on the walls of the restaurant across the street. I fix my eyes up and ahead, climbing toward my palm tree, the tidy row of cypress that lines one side of our yard, the bright stripe of our patio umbrella.
My neighbors on both sides have as many steps into their houses and in order to maintain a kind of basic familiarity and friendliness, in order to remain "neighborly" we have to be ascending or descending at almost the exact same time. This rarely happens. Our house is private, but it is also isolated. I like my solitude, but I can be lonely. When I am alone too long, I start to forget how to interact.
At our new house, there are no steps, just a long, smooth driveway. There are houses on both sides and we've already met our neighbors. They stop to talk over the hedge, wave hello through the kitchen window as I roll out the trash cans and offer us the use of their telephone until our new line is activated. (They're of an age where cell phones are still a new-fangled invention.) I can already see that there will be days when I might long for the anonymity of a flight of stairs. But I also see how, for me, it will be helpful to have this little burst of contact; this practice at relating with the world.