The Staircase
An unconventional method to learn somersaulting

I peered down at my feet and smiled in satisfaction. There was a perfect, dainty bow on the front of the new, black open-toed shoes, and the click-clack of the heels on our wooden floors was very satisfying. These were my first proper pair of high-heeled Sabbath shoes, and I was giddy to finally wear them.

My mother had been out of town for the week, and as a 12-year-old I had assumed the responsibility of cooking for myself and my father (by cooking I shamelessly mean reheating the meals my mother left, with a great amount of trepidation that I might accidentally leave the oven on and burn the house down). But she would be back tomorrow—we had made it through the week without incident.

Or so I thought.

Glancing at the clock, I jerked out of my reverie and hurriedly grabbed my book bag for services. As I headed for the twelve-step staircase by the window, I heard my father’s voice calling me from downstairs. “Can you grab my bag, sweetie? I left it in my room. Then I’m ready to go.”

Hastily I scurried to the master bedroom, my heels click-clacking noisily underneath me. Once again I heard my father’s voice float up the staircase: “Don’t run in your heels, Chrissie—it’s not safe.”

“Yes Sir,” I called out vociferously. Then, holding my book bag in one hand and my dad’s bag in the other, I cautiously plodded back to the staircase, my click-clack reduced to a muffled thump-thump.

At last, I had reached the stairs and I was free to click-clack again. Smugly congratulating myself on my perfect obedience to my father’s directions, I promptly began to descend the stairs with my hands full, not bothering to grab onto the handrail. Too late, I remembered another one of my Dad’s instructions that had eternally applied in our house: Always use the handrail.

Almost before the thought had even finished running through my mind, I realized that one of my precious heels had snagged the little lip at the top of the staircase and tripped me.

I was falling.

I still remember the rush of adrenaline as I saw the shoe rack at the bottom of the stairs looming up to my face. And then—I didn’t see it anymore. My eyes widened as I looked up at the top of the staircase. Quite unintentionally, I was somersaulting in the air.

Oddly enough, the only thing I remember thinking is Wow, this is the most agile I’ve ever been in my life! I remember hearing a clattering smash, which I would later learn was the sound of one of our Ten Commandments tablets smashing on the ground because I launched my book bag at it mid-fall. Whoops.

I flipped over again, looking up at the shoe rack from beneath this time, and landed with an audible crunch on my neck. This had all happened in the span of a few seconds, and I distantly heard the banging of the downstairs bathroom door as my father ran out, worriedly crying out my name. Somewhat hazily, I bellowed “I’m fine!” without really knowing if that were true.

I remember sitting up and readjusting my dress and my glasses, which were remarkably not broken. Even more remarkable, I wasn’t in pain—though the crunch I had heard was worrisome.

Dad ran up to me and quickly gave me a pretty thorough examination. He discovered a few colorful bruises on my legs and arms and a scratch on my face, but remarkably, there was no serious damage. I realized the crunch had been part of the shoe rack snapping in half. I was able to get up and walk, and even my new heels were free of scuffs. Aside from being a little dizzy, I was none the worse for wear!

I took away two valuable lessons from that Sabbath morning. One, I was reminded to be more thankful for the angelic protection God gives us—it’s a miracle that I wasn’t seriously hurt landing on my neck.

Two, the Fifth Commandment loomed larger in my mind: “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). Had I been more careful to obey my dad’s rules, I would not have fallen in the first place. (Ironically, of our two Ten Commandments tablets, the one I knocked over was the one containing Commandments 1-5.)

On the drive to services that day, I reflected on these lessons and thanked God for His protection. It also occurred to me that a third lesson could be applied as well—everything falls apart when Mom is gone. But at least I could tell her when she got home that I learned how to do somersaults quite well!