The Stairs, the Baby, and the Wardrobe


Our house is not nearly this magical.

For some reason unknown, our duplex is a quintuple split-level. That is, there are five levels staggered from the basement to The Big One’s room, or as I call it the Crow’s Nest. This means there are stairs, stairs everywhere. It wasn’t a huge problem when we moved in, because we only had one kid at the time and he could climb stairs pretty well. But when we had the second one I was worried we would be impeded by baby gates all over the place.

It turns out we were too lazy to buy any more of them, so we just have the one we had with the first. This is usually placed in front of the staircase going down, since we don’t need to go down there to use the john or anything like that. That means that our son, who is now an avid crawler, has now had lots of experience going up the stairs to the bedrooms, often shutting himself behind the open doors, as a kind of strange game to give mommy and daddy heart attacks. Mostly we watch to make sure he doesn’t take a tumble backwards, something less necessary now that he’s figured out how to lower himself down the stairs backwards. (The funniest thing about this is that he apparently gets sick of the process about two steps from the bottom, and spends the home stretch fussing and complaining about all the hard work he has to do to go down the stairs.)

This Saturday I watched the boys for a couple hours, and I was doing something important with The Big One. The Little One crawled off, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him heading up the stairs. I made sure he didn’t fall down again, but otherwise I let him go and put off catching him for the next minute or so. As I said,  I was in the middle of something very important, and not, say, showing my eldest the trailer for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special. Upon finishing this very not-Doctor-Who related task, I went upstairs to track down The Crawler.

First I checked in his bedroom, which seemed like an obvious task. Nope, no baby in there. Then I went up to the Crow’s Nest to look in his brother’s room, a popular destination owing to the flotsam and jetsam of toys and knick-knacks flooding the floor. Opening the door there, I saw no diapered rear rooting through a pile of dirty clothes, and heard no burrowing in toyboxes. Clearly this meant there was one place to look, in Mommy and Daddy’s room. I open the door to save him from that maelstrom, and saw no babysign.

It was about this time that I began to get a little worried. In all of 20 seconds, I had run out of hiding places. He definitely went upstairs, because the gate was blocking the staircase in the other direction, but there were no more places left for a chubby fourteen-month-old to crawl. I half-heartedly checked the upstairs bathroom, but he’s never been really interested in that room, and sure enough he wasn’t there. I did make very sure that he wasn’t hiding in a dark corner in the hallway, but I don’t think most kids learn to disappear completely until 18 months or so.

Beginning to panic, I ran downstairs and asked one of the most ridiculous questions I have asked my three-year-old: “Have you seen your brother?” I checked behind couches and under beds in rooms where he couldn’t have possibly have gone. Was I going insane? Didn’t I see him crawl upstairs? And then I really left all sense of reality and began to honestly wonder if he had simply disappeared. Maybe there was a closet that led into Narnia and he had already ruined his dinner with Turkish delight. Maybe it was like that Simpsons Halloween episode where Homer finds a portal to another dimension behind the closet, and my son was now crawling in a pre-rendered CGI environment. Most horribly, I wondered if there was a strange hobo living in our upstairs who had wrapped him in a little bindle and taken him on the road for reasons to bizarre to contemplate. This sounds ridiculous until you see the piles of junk in my three-year-old’s room. There could be anything in there.

Anyway, I had forgotten one spot where he could have been. He had indeed gone into our bedroom, but he had made straight for mommy and daddy’s bathroom, clearly the more entertaining one. Once inside, he had closed the door and sat their silently in the dark like Charlie Brown. I was relieved when I discovered him there, but I don’t think he had much interest in coming back down. He was parked in front of the door and preventing me from opening it, the little snot.

But maybe there is a portal to a magical world in our bathroom. It’s not a big room, but I confess I haven’t tried to walk through any of the walls. It would be a wonderful place, filled with nothing but staircases. There would be occasional landings where Mommy or Daddy would stand with a peeled banana, and then he would take off up the next staircase. At the top would be a room filled with doors that he could close obsessively, and a bucket of Cheerios on which he could gorge himself. Truly a wonderland.


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