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by Alice M. Batzel

          On an interior door frame of the rental house where we raised our children was a series of pencil marks. These marks, made by my husband and me, represented the growth in stature that our sons experienced as the years passed in their youth. Though they were just eighteen months apart in age, at times, their height was the same, and at other times it was starkly different. Frequently it seemed a competition between the two of them to be taller than the other. Oh, how I wished those marks didn't progress so quickly. The pencil marks on the door frame, however, were a visual anchor that marked a passage of time that I could not deny.

          One pencil mark on the door frame marked a birthday height. How could a boy grow so much in a year? Often, it was the white sock showing at the hem of long pants that suggested how much he grew, but the possibility of shrinking fabric could also be the blame for that. The pencil mark on the door frame, however, could not mistake the passage of time. I’d share in their joy as they could see the "proof" of their growing up with the recorded markings. But secretly, my heart whispered, "Oh, don't grow so fast!"

          Occasionally another pencil mark might appear by someone else's hand. That’s when I’d discover it was from each boy trying to measure the other to prove a point of height dominance. Sometimes a dispute or wrestle might occur from the suspicion that one might have intentionally recorded the other's height a bit too short. I often had to referee those spontaneous wrestling matches. Such are memories of a mother who treasured the pencil marks on the door frame.

          A new pencil mark might appear at the end or beginning of a school year or a scouting rank advancement. Increases in height brought excitement to my boys, accompanied by the need for new clothing and shoe purchases to accommodate their growth. I, too, took pride in those changes, but I also needed a bit of solitude; the markings showed the passage of time etched not only on a door frame but also in my heart. At times, there was a bit of sorrow in knowing that one day the marks on the door frame would be but a record of my children passing through my life, growing, growing, gone.

          After our sons left our home and took on their individual adult lives, my husband and I left that rental home and purchased a couple's home. Our home is quieter than in previous years, and the voices of the past are starkly absent. The growth in my sons is now reflected in their choices, their families, and their life's journey. In their homes is a wall or interior door frame with pencil marks representing the growth in the height of their children. When I see those pencil marks, I long for the door frame in that old rental home where we raised our children. If only I had that door frame with those pencil marks today, never to be painted over, a treasure to hold dear, evidence of a sweet time of family life.

          Today, as a grandmother, I often like to take time and silently reminisce. My voice is from experience and tenderness of heart as I visit memories of many past treasured days. As your children grow up, make your pencil marks on an interior door frame of your home. Celebrate each mark. Never erase or paint over it. Cherish it. One day you, too, will reminisce. In the quiet hours, you’ll pass by that door frame and softly run your fingers over the fading marks. You'll smile with loving memory, yet also with a bit of sorrow, for all too soon, they are growing, growing, gone.

(copyright 8/4/2018, rev. 5/14/2020 – Alice M. Batzel – all rights reserved)

(Photo source: From the Facebook page of Simply Vintage & Homemaking, and Milena Mincheva)

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