The First Door

There was a door at the bottom of the staircase in the first house I can remember living in. It was an old house, “destined to be torn down” my mother would say as she drew winnie-the-pooh on my bedroom wall.
It was a white door, with a window in the top half. Outside, you could see the branches of a tree that had grown next to it, and squirrels would come up and look in the window. My earliest memory is my father holding me up to watch the squirrels. Squirrel we’d cry! As if it was a lemur or elephant: an exotic treat.

This door never opened. On the outside, it led to a four foot drop. Maybe there were stairs there once, but not in the time I lived there. I can recall having a Dennis the Menace Visits the Winchester Mystery House comic I read over and over again, a nd I’d imagine maybe our house was built by this strange woman too, this door was there to confuse ghosts and keep us safe. I never felt so safe as I did in that old house, doomed to be there some day.

I ran by that door down the stairs at Christmas, to discover the present I didn’t think I’d get, had showed up. Long afternoons I laid a blanket out in front of the door, arranged all the stuffed animals around and dance to Beatles, Peter, Paul and Mary and Free to be You and Me. The door, never to be opened, watched.

And when we moved away, I hoped we might finally open the door, and look down into the thistles and tall weeds that grew at its foot amidst the ruble of the stairs. But it was painted shut. Is a door a door that never opens? Or is anything that might take you somewhere else a door?

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