Monday, December 6, 2010

The Stoop

My Own Personal Lion
I recently received a comment about a photo I posted of the house in which I grew up. More accurately, it was a photo of the stoop.

To the rest of the country, the word "stoop" means to bend slightly, lowering oneself to an acceptable level to accomplish a specific task.  Or, simply, to slightly droop about the head and shoulders. To New Yorkers, past and present, it means something entirely different. 

A "stoop"--technically, a small concrete platform leading to the entrance of one's home, is infinitely more than its definition. It is often the social hub of your existence--especially,but not exclusively,in the warmer months. Elevated and removed from the activity of the streets below, my stoop--guarded by a pair of dignified stone lions--was the safe perch from where, for many years, I observed the world.

Sitting with any one of an assorted number of family, neighbors or friends, I watched life stream by. In the summer, there was the parade of strap hangers returning from work after a steamy ride on the "B" train--the crispness of their morning pep, significanlty compromised by the crowded ride over the bridge. I anticipated the daily line-up (the "elevated" was just down the street) and the regulars became the cast members of my daily life. Occasionally, people we knew would take a few minutes to climb halfway up to fill us in on the happenings in "the city." Who needed a newspaper when you had a stoop?

The stoop was a place to read--- the "Little House" series or the Tolkien trilogy and, later, magazines like Glamour or Seventeen where I gazed longingly at the long legs and straight teeth of the models on the glossy pages. Back then, I would have traded those attributes for my stoop despite how I loved it. The stoop understood, silently accepting my adolescence and waiting for it to pass.

Stoops are for courting, as well...and telling secrets. They are for eating an ice cream cone (bought from Bernie's on the corner) or, if it's hot enough inside, an entire meal, balanced on one's knees. Long before I was born, my grandmother would sleep out there on the hottest summer nights, waiting for a breeze. Believe it or not, if the wind was exactly right, you could get a whiff of the ocean--or the garbage dump, if the wind was wrong--from my stoop, as well.

Stoops are for giggling at your neighbor's new haircut or sitting on all night during a blackout in July. They absorb tears, too but prefer laughter as you brace your feet on the limestone ledge, scooting over on the step to make room for your mother's folding chair or your cousins, visiting their grandma next door.

In tomorrow's post, I will tell you what happened to my stoop....stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. Szold! You make me want to live in the city!!