Pencil marks on a door jam, by Tina Simson

There I was, smack dab in the middle of cleaning my house, arms full of rags and Murphy’s oil soap, tears streaming down my face. You see I had just glanced at the door jam in my kitchen. You know the one with the pencil marks measuring children, the one you can’t bring yourself to paint during the 20 years you live in a house. There it was, as it is every day, testimony to the ways we all grow.

I see my own mark, noted by my son Mike. It names me ‘Mom’ and the mark 1/8 inch above me claims, with glee, the day this son grew taller than I. I remember the ritual of measuring. Only Dad could do it, it must be done with a pencil, with no shoes and feet back against the wall. I remember the few moments of holding our breath as Dad would proclaim, “yep, you grew” or “no sorry, not this time.” At holidays distant friends and family would clamor to the wall to see where the year had brought them.

There is a mark for ‘Dad’, and family friends, nieces and nephews all clustered at the top racing to out grow each other. A girlfriend added, only when the relationship passes certain tests, if you make it onto the door jam you usually make it into the family.

So what caused the tears? Well, there are three new marks at the bottom of the jam. Not far from the floor at all. They are the measures of three new souls in our family. I look at each, a nephew, a niece and a grandchild. Three glorious members of this family and I think, who knew? Who knew what hope and grace they would bring to all of us? You see, we’ve had our share of losses. Every family does. And in life, we come to expect loss. People die, always sooner than we want. We miss them desperately because they had become a part of who we are and their loss feels as if a limb was severed. We all have sorrow that brings us to our knees leaving us wondering how to go on. Somehow we do.

Three children full of awe, love and joy fill the empty spaces in ways we could never have known. And we grow in ways not measured with a pencil on a door jam.

One Response to “Pencil marks on a door jam, by Tina Simson”

  1. My grandmother had a wall in her upstairs where she measured me and my much younger siblings. Since we only visited once or twice a year, the gaps between the marks were usually pretty significant.
    After she had a stroke and the family had to sell the house, I wondered what became of the marks — were they painted over? Turns out my mom transferred them to a long sheet of butcher paper.
    Thank you for writing this.


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