In urban architecture, a stoop is a small staircase ending in a platform and leading to the entrance of a home. I grew up in NYC, in a pretty townhouse with a stunning stoop. And that stoop, for many, many years was where all the action was – everyday. During softer, more innocent times, a stoop was a place to sit with friends, do homework, wait for a ride, take a secret phone conversation or even play stoop ball, which is a really fun reflection. When that pink Spalding slammed perfectly, and nailed the step in just the right place and then careened and bounced all over and across the street, never to be caught – that was a fun moment. So many references to that stoop were made – the bike or the ladder was ‘under the stoop,’ or the stoop ‘needed to be shoveled,’ or ‘careful, the stoop is wet,’ or ‘the other bell is at the top of the stoop’, or ‘maybe the mailman left the package at the top of the stoop.’ That aforementioned ‘top of the stoop’ entryway opened right into the second floor of our one family, four story townhouse, but, oddly enough it was rarely used, rarely mentioned, as all the talk seemed to stop, right there, on that stoop.
I have referred to some fun, familiar urban NYC lingo before, terms familiar perhaps to a certain city demographic, but the stoop is a really kind of cool component – it is the penultimate downtown word to describe an appendage that is still as memorable a platform for very special conversations of time and about life. The many levels, steps, breaths it took to climb all the stairs were a healthy alternative for sure, but the real fun in mentioning this great raised high stepper is that it was so communal, non discriminatory and a very happy gathering place. That particular stoop brought a lot of people together, if not to just sit and watch the passing parade of traffic, a sleeping baby in a carriage or to giggle at the plethora of high school drivers learning how to parallel park, at the pump (not a hydrant, then, oops, another antique NYC reference) that was parallel to the tree that stood at the foot of our stoop. That beautiful tree was so beautiful, (yes, a Tree does grow in Brooklyn!) That too, was, like the stoop, a wonderful 100 year old oak masterpiece, that is sadly, no longer there. It died, before it completely uprooted the entire sidewalk and had to be removed recently. (I still keep my eye on that home and all its surroundings during, perhaps a nosy drive by or two.) That oak was at the root of a few a trips and falls, even back then, when we were still living there. Nothing looked prettier in the snow, except the stoop, unswept, perhaps.
After all these years, and atop a new, familiar stoop, I can still teeter on a step, very comfortably on the platform’s hard surface. I still love the feeling I get when I can just grab a coat, and some shades, go right outside, watch the street goings on, make a secret phone call, see the sleeping babies, have a ‘close to home’ cup of coffee, appreciate the still life in the pretty trees and then quietly take some time to reminisce and smile about something as uncomplicated as a stoop. The utilitarian value is as important now as it was then.
Photographs by Viva Violeta Photography