The adult-free upstairs is our universe, our private world of fun and games and funny voices, where Jim’s rolled up socks turn into stink bombs of such infamy that as soon as you see him take off a shoe, you run… as fast as your stockinged feet along a polished wood floor can take you.
It’s also where fuzzy, red carpeting turns to molten lava as chairs and tables become bridges, and the sofa, an island where captives and carpet monsters fight to the death in battle after battle.
In the universe upstairs, sloped-ceiling closets and dark crawlspaces (too-small-for-adults places) become hideaways where we can bring pillows and posters, flashlights and stuffed animals, and write secrets and swear words on the 2 x 4s and plaster board; as we listen to Mom in the kitchen below.
Until the heater switches on and the great metal shafts fill with air and fill our ears with rumbling.
At the very top of the back steps, behind a tiny door (not more than three feet square), Jim spent all day building a spaceship. Fabricated from old outlets and switches and a roll of duct tape.
With Mark as his co-pilot and imagination as his rocket fuel, he rallies us to climb into his crawlspace capsule. I sit back in the darkness, surrounded by boxes of memories – Mom’s heirloomed wedding dress at my elbow and Christmas decorations at my back – anxious for the countdown.
Excited for blast off.
For leaving the earth far behind.
Calling to his co-pilot to flick switches labelled with a big, black magic marker, then moving his hands up and down his own duct-taped controls, I hear the sputters and rumbles of Jim’s vocal-powered rockets.
Hugging my big, Pooh Bear, I watch our fearless pilot, in the beam of a dangling flashlight, lean back and call to his unlikely crew through the cup of his hand, “Hang on! Here we go! Ten… Nine… Eight…”
Jim’s rumbles begin to rise.
“Seven… Six… Five… Four…”
I feel the crawlspace shake and rattle.
“Three… Two… One… BLAST OFF!”
I squeeze that silly, old bear and close my eyes to see the fast-approaching cosmos…
And there I float in the infinite black. In the infinite stars. Until Jim shouts, “Meteors!” and all hell breaks loose in our top-of-the-stairs cockpit.
The hallway light suddenly cuts through the cracks and the dark – and the meteors – and the call of dinner brings us back to earth.