In the basement of my grandparents home there is a doorframe. On one side of this frame, my growth since childhood is inked on the stained wood in my Grandfather’s handwriting, which has failed to change these last 40 years. My childhood was one of apartment hopping. To have a stable place at my grandparents home was a significant source of comfort. When my Grandfather would say, “Let’s go see how you measure up, kiddo,” my heart would leap with pride and curiosity.
Now that I have two daughters and a stable home, I took up that tradition. Each daughter has her own side in the frame that leads to our bedroom from a small sitting room in our 110-year-old house. In the beginning I carved a mark with a knife and inked the date just as my Grandfather did.
After a few short years, I realized this was ceremony and needed more formality because my daughters took great pride in seeing how much they’ve grown.
One day, at the mom and pop hardware store looking for a simple sliding bolt, I noticed several brass plates hanging on a rack and the idea hit. Then I recalled the fanciful tops of upholstery tacks and the idea grew.
The timing of this project converged with my husband’s upcoming birthday. For his 41st birthday I unveiled this new system that has grown into a work of art - of sorts. Looking back, I wish that I had done more planning and used a straight edge to place those upholstery tacks in a straight line. However, I see a symbolism in their uneven placement. Growth is not straight and neatly arranged; it is random, unpredictable and comes in spurts.
On their birthday and half-birthdays, we measure our daughter’s height and add a tack and a plate to the doorframe. They eagerly look forward to this event. It’s become a rite of passage. Often times, I will find my daughters just looking at their charts, running their fingers over the tacks and plates. I wonder what they're thinking about, but don’t ask.
As for me and my husband, we will always have this threshold, even after our girls venture out into the big world to make another mark. And, we will walk through this threshold every night and every morning.
As for the doorframe at my grandparent’s house, I’d jump in a heartbeat if he wanted to size me up today. There, notches from my daughters mingle with mine. They love seeing how they measure up to me. I do too.