It wasn’t until we were days away from our contractor starting demolition for our long-awaited kitchen renovation that my wife and I had to think about what to do with the marks on the wall.
When our two kids were growing up we’d measure their heights a couple times a year, marking each gain with a pencil. It was always a great moment for them to see their latest growth spurt.
“Look at how much you’ve grown!” we’d say as they beamed with pride.
Of course, as they neared their full heights in high school, the wall markings were also a reminder that they would soon be heading off to college. Through the empty nest years we kept the markings intact.
When our kids started having kids of their own, the height wall was reborn for a new era.
Every time the grandkids visit we say, “Let’s see how much you’ve grown!” They scootch up as straight as can be to gain every bit of height, and when we’re done they turn around and look in wonder at their new mark, and sometimes run a finger over the thin pencil line and their name.
I hadn’t really looked at the wall in some time, but today—while packing up kitchenware for storage—I paused to examine it; two generations advancing relentlessly upward with lines of memory rising in my mind. I saw my son’s name and height from his year in first grade, and thought of the time he came down with viral meningitis; the nurses holding him down as he screamed and writhed as they kept him still for a spinal tap. And when it was done, the doctors giving him a shot and explaining to me that it would make him forget. I thought at the time, Where’s my shot?
But in truth the memories, the good and the bad, are all part of life’s story and I’d never chose to lose any of it.
The tough times were thankfully the rare exception. Our house has always been full of laughter and play, and that reality has only been deepened by the addition of our four boisterous and amazing grandkids.
My wife and I don’t really know what to do with the marks on the wall now. We’ve been wanting a new kitchen for over twenty years. And yet there’s a part of us that wants to keep this smudged, marked up, and greatly in need of paint section of wall just as it is. What slick, Benjamin Moore color can possibly improve upon this record of our family? Yet it would, admittedly, be odd to have a brand-new kitchen and one section of wall un-done.
We’ve settled on a solution.
First, like archeologists on a dig, we carefully photographed each section of the wall, kids and grandkids names—plus the name Bob, no relation to us; he was a guy who painted the house decades ago and left his name and height there for fun.
When the new kitchen is done and the wall is freshly painted, we’ll recreate the old wall with exacting detail, marking each date, each height milestone of the past—and all the new ones to come—with careful detail. And when our grandchildren are full grown and they visit, they will look at the wall with us and hopefully remember their childhood here—the games, the baking of cookies, the snuggles on the couch watching their favorite movies, the many craft projects. We are so fortunate to have a home that our growing family genuinely enjoys returning to. This is their base of comfort in an uncertain world.
The markings on the wall, like our love for each other, endures.