i saw a wall once i can’t remember where


It was in a house which had been a family’s home for many years. On the wall were measurements, written with pencil, written with pen, straight and even, crooked and misspelled. It was a collection of growth marks, with each member of the family represented, a record of the children’s heights year-by-year. It struck me hard. To me that wall proclaimed aloud This Is Home in many voices. It illustrated for me what it means to settle. This is a place, it said, that we always come back to. It’s a place where everyone’s growth is celebrated and history is made together. I can see such a wall, with a sky-scraping mark for the daddy’s height, with the year of someone’s amazing growth spurt marked in red, with a low mark for the dog.

Since our marriage Alex and I have occupied five different apartments and there are many moves ahead. We’ll be changing cities–we’ll be changing continents. We aren’t buying a house. I’ve accepted the fact that perhaps we never will. There won’t be a growing-up wall to visit each birthday. Thus the growing-up board. I first saw a “growth ruler” somewhere more than a year ago but it took me until last month to get mine done. I had to wait until I found a suitable board in the dumpster (July), ordered a mini-can of stain for it (October), cleaned, sanded, and stained it (February), and finally marked off feet and inches in permanent marker (March). It has flaws: it’s not as dark as I’d like, I didn’t have a printer to make templates of a better font, and the board is shorter than I’d like. Perhaps next summer I can get a wood-working relative (ahem) on the job. I’d also like one cut invisibly in thirds–for ease of transport.


But this will do to begin on. In pencil I’ve written in the girls’ heights since birth (saved from the wall in our last flat) and we discovered they have each been sneakily growing since July. We even measured Hugh, his first-ever as they don’t do it in hospital here. He was 25 inches tall, folks. And growing.

I like this also because the children can see their own growth and measure each other whenever they feel like it. Now we just need to get a dog . . .


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9 Responses to i saw a wall once i can’t remember where

  1. therigneys says:

    You could be thinking of the growth chart wall from the previous owners of our house that you saw when we first moved in?! I hate to admit it, but I painted over their decades of memories 😉 It just didn’t feel right since we lived there now! We have since replaced it with a growth chart similar to yours, it’s called a “Sprout Stick!” It’s fun.

    • betsy says:

      I wish I had seen your house when you first moved in–it would be fun to do a Before & After–you’ve made it so lovely!

      • therigneys says:

        You did!! You and Alex and Norah spent the night with us two 2 weeks after we moved in! Remember?! We didn’t have any furniture! 🙂 You were pregnant with Harriet and we ate big bowls of ice cream in my bed together (which made sense because you were pregnant. I, however, had no excuse! 🙂

      • betsy says:

        When we stayed with you your house was beautiful, J! Perfect new kitchen, wood floors, gorgeous colors–maybe, did you do most of that before you moved in?

      • betsy says:

        I also remember crying my eyes out because I’d said goodbye to my family and you gave me hugs, truth, and limeade. And that’s the title of the book YOU will write some day: Hugs, Truth, and Limeade.

  2. Sarah says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the time frame from your initial spark of an idea and all the steps it took to complete. I thought I was the only one who took forever to accomplish a project. Reading this, I thought, “See? It took her a while to get that done too, and it must be because she takes time to enjoy the ‘side shows,’ and do rich, educational activities with her children, and stop and reflect on the more eternal things in life. Maybe I’m not such a loser after all.” This is a lovely project, but even more lovely is to see the love behind it and know there are very real memories behind those markings, it’s not just some superficial Pinterest picture that makes me feel more like a failure or resent our small, ugly, messy apartment that does not feel like “home.” What an encouragement.

    • betsy says:

      I’m so encouraged by this comment, Sarah. Thank you. And I know about small, ugly, messy apartments. Let’s keep trying to take those things on as a creative challenge. “This is where we are, this is what we have, and it is good,” right? With gratitude, Betsy

  3. therigneys says:

    Aw. I do remember. Why do our visits always feel like five minutes? I will be sure to stock my fridge with ingredients for limeade in just a few months!! 🙂

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