birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Steps

The carpet on the grand staircase still looks brand new. Probably because my Yiayia has a cleaning sickness and vacuums it religiously. It's the color of brown sand. And it's soft too.

These days that staircase doesn't see much traffic. After all, she is the only one living in a three-story home. Her children now have grey hair and her grandchildren are having children of their own. And she avoids steps at all cost, her neuropathy is getting worse and no one wants her to fall. So

But those stairs know her family the most. For every Christmas, they are warmed by the tushies of her legacy.

After Christmas dinner is devoured and the Christmas china is back in the curio cabinet and before a present is opened, our Christmas tradition takes place.

My cousins and I take a seat on the staircase leading to the upstairs bedrooms. But it no longer is just the six of us. There are spouses and girlfriends and five of my Yiayia's great-grandchildren. The 16 of us wiggle and squirm and try not to elbow each other in the head or knee the person in front of us in the back and we squish ourselves into a spot - never in the same place, never in any specific order.

And then we take a photo. Always first with the family. Then another with those Christmas-day additions who haven't been married into the family yet, in case they disappear from the family album by next Christmas dinner.

Then my Yiayia's three children, stand as far as possible to fit us all in the frame of their camera. First with flash. Then no flash.

What is my phone doing?
Oh no, I don't have storage.
Would you guys sit still?
Be serious, you guys.
Ok, now a funny one.

And then we add in our Yiayia. Because without her, none of us would have our Christmas outfit pressed against that pristine carpet.

Then one by one, we head to the kitchen for dessert and break into our little conversations.

And the perfect Christmas moment every Christmas has ended - one that has no focus on money or presents, but presence and how lucky we are to have each other.

It really is the best gift every Christmas.

Ghost Tracks

Epidaurus