Brick. Paper. Scissors.
In our old house, there was a weird little wall right next to the refrigerator in the kitchen. It had dates and names and heights written on it.
We started it when the kids were little, and we wanted to see how much they were growing, and we thought that the perfect place to mark their heights would be this little wall.
So they’d stand up straight with their backs against the wall and we’d balance a pencil on the top of their heads and then mark off on the wall their heights and the date. It was sweet.
But then the kids wanted to see how tall they were in comparison to everyone else, so Mark and I put our own heights up there as well.
Before long, just about everyone who came into the house stood to have their height measured: The neighbors. The kids’ school friends. The kids’ school friends’ parents. The cleaning lady. The cleaning lady’s daughter. Everyone who came to film in the studio. Performers. Producers. Tradespeople. Writers. My niece, visiting from Scotland. My nephew. Cousins, Aunties, Uncles, and Friends of over 20 years – all stood to have their heights marked up on this daft little wall.
At one point, the wall was almost impossible to read in places because it was so cluttered with names, heights, and dates. (Who knew we knew so many people between 5’4 and 5’9?)
And then the house was remodeled. And the wall was painted over. And then it was just a plain, odd, little blank wall next to the refrigerator. And it was fine. And stylish. Very stylish. And the kitchen looked like a grown-up’s kitchen. Clean. Plain. Tidy. And really very nice.
But something was missing. Because houses are just shells without people. Walls without memories are just rows of brick.
So we started again.
New names and heights and dates went up. And as they did, I could kind of remember where some of the old heights were. I had the new list written on the wall in front of me, and the old list written somewhere in the back of my mind. Sometimes when I walked into the kitchen I would laugh passing the wall, as some random vision of someone who had once stood against it, came to mind.
And if I stopped for just a minute, I could recall scenes like old home movies: My youngest cheering when he spotted he was almost as tall as his Aunty. My eldest guffawing when he was taller than his father, and boasting that now he was not only taller but he had more hair. Two fully grown adults visiting from abroad arguing about who might have been “cheating” because one was surprisingly taller than the other. A friend brushing her hand against the wall with a faint melancholy smile, seeing the name and height and date of someone who once was.
Occasionally, I would just sit and look at the list on the wall, and allow the memories of all the silliness to come roaring back. Christmases and Birthdays and good days and bad days. Family dinners and arguments and packed lunches and Halloween costumes. Holding onto my eldest as he cried over the unfairness in the world. All four of us laughing when my youngest announced that if his father had special powers, it would be that he could sense if there was a Home Depot anywhere in the area. There could be Spiderman, Batman, and HomeDepotMan.
But life is a sequence of letting go. We moved on. We are not as we were. We no longer live in that house.
When the developer who bought the house called to say that it was soon to be demolished, and asked if there was anything else we wanted to take, I thought of the list on the wall, and found myself unreasonably tearful. Not because of the bricks and mortar – although sort of completely because of the bricks and mortar. Though houses are just shells without people, walls full of so many memories lie in simple rows of bricks.
When I was the age my kids were when we started that wall, I couldn’t wait for time to pass. I felt like days – especially school days – lasted forever, and I remember always being furious on Christmas night that I was going to have to wait a whole other year before Christmas came again.
But now, at my full height, I don’t feel that way anymore. Christmas feels like it's barely finished before another one begins. Time sped up somewhere along the line. My babies are not babies anymore. Too many of the names written on the wall are no longer here.
And Ok, so life is a sequence of letting go. But what if you don’t want to let go?
Where we live now, there is no wall to write heights on. And nobody needs measured. My kids are tall and very tall, and Mark and I suspect we’re getting shorter.
A year ago, I sat down one Sunday and wrote a little blog, and sent it out into the Universe. And I felt better. So I did it again the next Sunday. And as I wrote, all the little stories came back in my head in clear bright technicolor. And each blog felt a bit like marking a name and a date and a height on a daft wee wall next to a refrigerator. So I carried on sending them out.
In the end, all of our moments travel into the mists of the past, to a place where once vibrant memories dissolve, but for me these little blogs are like snapshots. Daft wee postcards, delivered along the way. Sent as a reminder of how the world once looked and what once was. Small and insignificant, lofty and blundering, proud, fearful, cheerful, shy. Just like names, heights, and dates marked on a wall next to a refrigerator.
And so much more convenient to transport than plasterboard and bricks.
Till next week
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