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  • The Joy of the Descent

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  • The House I grew up in had a split foyer at the entrance with seven stairs going up, seven going down and the perfect black iron railing that served as a pivot point for a speedy and youthful downward flight. Even with a soda in hand, I could dash down those stairs during a commercial break from the kitchen to the family room at breakneck speeds. Great fun for an 11-year-old just remembering makes me smile today.
    Recently, I did some thinking about going up stairs and slowing life down a bit by purposefully taking my time as I climb. It is cathartic, calming. Certainly not the kind of thinking I did as a kid. I hardly ever climb the stairs now without wondering if anyone else on the planet finds the same restful value in it as I do.
    But going down the stairs is a whole different matter it's fun.
    When I was in elementary school, Ronnie was the undisputed champion of descent on the stairs leading out to the playground. He zipped down, taking three steps at a time like a wing-footed Hermes.
    Going down stairs then could have involved sliding down handrails, running or jumping contests near the bottom. Heck, it might even have involved the forbidden cardboard box slide. (Don't think I didn't try a few of these at home). The bottom line is that it was fun. And we knew it was fun.
    This notion, this thinking in the back of our mind of such daring dangers hangs in there until our late 20s, maybe even our early 30s. We bounce down the stairs like all is well with the world" if only the world could keep up with us.
    But we turn that corner. You know the one I'm talking about. Suddenly, one morning, we find ourselves in the disturbing place where bouncing down the stairs isn't fun, it's reckless.
    All sorts of alarms go off in our brains when we don't heed common sense and we lithely descend. The loudest is the one that says, "Hey, you may think you are bobbing down gracefully, but you're not." As we look over the handrail, vertigo, which we didn't even have a name for until this point in our lives, takes over. The other alarms go off, too. What if I stumble? What if I twist my ankle? I'd better keep a good grip on the railing!
    That said, most of us still enjoy that quick-legged descent now and then: That bouncy, half-hopping, quasi-gallop gait that puts a smile on our faces.
    The old gallop may not be quite what it used to be; and that's all right. I'm not going to sled down a flight of stairs on a cardboard box (even if I do have more padding than I used to), but like that 11-year-old from so long ago, I still find some joy in simply going downstairs.
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