Gramma's Stairs

WHENEVER WE VISITED GRAMMA AND GRAMPA, there were always a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins visiting as well. The place was a hive of activity, both inside and outside.

The kitchen was a hub of flurry.

My uncles and Grampa monopolized the kitchen table with their card games. Smoke hung in the kitchen the way it hung in the dreary Detroit sky. Shot glasses and ashtrays littered the table.

My aunts and Gramma busied themselves cooking, baking and doing dishes. Skillets sputtered on the stove. Oven doors screeched. Fridge doors thumped. Pots and cookie sheets clattered in the sink. The back door banged shut regularly enough that Gramma gave up yelling, “Keep that door locked!” The banter between the men and the women was nonstop, ranging from barely audible whispers to ear-spitting guffaws. What a cacophony!

Gramma’s back stairs was always a major draw to my cousins and me. We were not allowed to be on them. If we were caught nearing them, we were shooed away. They were situated in the rear corner of the kitchen between the stove and the back door.

The attraction wasn’t the stairs themselves, but what Gramma stored on the third step up: a large jar of her cookies. The trick for us became making it through the bustle of the kitchen unnoticed, then sneaking through the door that separated the stairs from the kitchen. When there was a lot happening, this was a fairly easy task. But when it was only Gramma and Grampa in the kitchen and things were quiet, this short trek was nearly impossible. They always caught us heading toward the cookies.

“Danny,” called Gramma as I neared the stairs, “Was machst Du? Why don’t you go play in the front room. You don’t need to be in the kitchen.” Grampa held back a chuckle.

Deflated but undaunted, I left the kitchen. I headed for the front room but kept going. I ran out the front door, around the house, and tested the back kitchen door. Surprisingly, it was unlocked! I raced back around to the front room to fetch Katie-Ann, my soon-to-be partner-in-crime.

“The back door’s unlocked?” she asked, as astonished as I was that Gramma would have left it unlocked.

We raced round the house and up the back steps, quietly opened the back door and slid inside. We stealthily moved toward the stairs, keeping out of sight.

“Ma,” called Grampa over his newspaper, “did you hear that? Sounded like the back door.”

“Can’t be, Pa,” she answered. “It’s locked. But I’ll check it. Can’t be too safe.”

Our eyes nearly bugged out of our heads. As fast as we could we slipped undetected into the stairwell. Katie-Ann and I congratulated ourselves with cookie after cookie.

In the kitchen, Gramma and Grampa smiled at one another as they mentally contrived new cookie barriers for future visits.