"Never get a house that doesn't have an odd number of stairs."
That's what my Granma always said. "You don't want a house with an even number of stairs, oh no." She'd shake her head and purse her lips. "You want a house with an odd number of stairs. Like eleven. Eleven is a good number of steps for a house. Or fifteen. My house in Cransbury used to have fifteen steps. That's why I bought this house, as well. Fifteen steps is a good number. But you don't want an even number, no no."
I'd be sitting on her lap. Her bony hands clutched at my dress, my soft, pudgy arms wrapped around her sharp elbows to keep me from falling off. She would lean back in her chair and tap her fingers against my knee. "You pay attention to your old grandmother, now." She'd smile at me, her eyes crinkling around the corners. "You listen to your crotchety old grandmother now. She knows what she's talking about!" Then she'd show me the little round sweet tin from the table next to her chair, and let me wriggle my way off her lap and onto the floor. "Now you go and count the stairs. Go on! Just to make sure. Go and make sure there's still fifteen steps." And she'd smile again, like it was a game. And I would go and count the steps. Stomp: one. Stomp: two. Stomp: three. All the way to the top. And then back down again. Stomp: one. Stomp: two. Stomp: three. Just to make sure. Then I'd go back to my Granma, and she'd give me a sweet from the tin, and let me choose if it was a pink one or a yellow one. Then I was free to go and play while she and Mama talked.
When I was eleven, I asked her why. Why should I only have a house with an odd number of steps? And she said, "Well, it's bad luck, isn't it child?" And looked at me all surprised, as if I should have known.
When I was thirteen, I told her that the number of steps in the house wasn't going to change. If there were fifteen steps, there were always going to be fifteen steps. And she looked at me as if I had thrown a stone at her in the street, her thin fingers tight and white and tangled in her lap, and I went and counted them again for her. All the way up to the top and back down, and then again. Just in case.
When I was fifteen, my Granma died. She left me the house in her will. It was dusted and cleaned, and covered and locked up, and left for when I turned twenty-one. Twenty-one was a respectible age to own a house, Granma said in her will.