Sunday, June 18, 2017
My favorite things 25
To get into our house you have to climb five steps, whether you use the back door, the front door or come in through the garage. We've always had a railing on the back steps, which open onto a fairly small stoop. We installed a railing in the garage about ten years ago so my mother could do those steps more easily. But the front steps were always naked.
Even as I got older and more decrepit and became an aficionado of railings and grab bars, I never gave much thought to our front steps because we never use them. When we drive our own cars, we go directly into the garage. When family members visit, they use the back door. The only people who ever use the front door are the mailman and our friends, who always seemed to be there smiling when we opened the door, having obviously navigated the steps successfully.
But then I got into a book club where two members had progressive health issues. It got to the point where they would call me as they hit the driveway, so I could open the garage door and let them use the interior steps with the railing. But my friend Keith gave me a hard time and told me I really needed to get a decent railing for the front steps.
I took his nagging to heart and went shopping for railings, but everything I saw seemed too fancy-busy for the house. So I got the idea to commission Dave Caudill, a sculptor and metal artist, to make us a piece of art that would conveniently be usable as a railing. It looks like a big leafless vine, or perhaps a cobra rearing up out of the bed of hostas, a beautiful curve that provides a sturdy grip. (And I do mean sturdy -- I watched when Dave installed it, set into a subterranean lump of concrete that's almost two feet deep.)
For various reasons it took a long time to get the project accomplished, but finally the big reveal -- book club was going to be at my house! And at the appointed hour, I got a call from Keith in the driveway wanting me to open the garage door. "NO! NO! I now have my fabulous new railing! You can use the front door!"
But I had failed to realize that the fabulous new railing only got you up three steps to the porch; there were still two steps into the house with nothing to cling to. So I had Dave make me a handhold next to the door.
I'm embarrassed that it took my friends to shame me into doing what I should have done 31 years ago when we bought the house (and why didn't the builder do it in 1963???) but I'm delighted with my railing. It's wonderful when art can be useful, and when useful things can be art.