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Ah, what memories they can stir… Remember when you were a little kid? Remember the urgency you felt to be all “grown up” and thought that by being bigger you might actually have achieved that? I don’t know exactly when the need to feel grown up starts. I doubt anybody does. As with most things, it probably differs for all of us based on our circumstances but I’m betting that it goes hand in hand with the sprouting of independence and a sense of responsibility.

When I was a little shit, I remember asking my parents to measure my growth in terms of height. I don’t think a month or two went by before I’d ask them to pull out a pencil and I’d stand in the same place as I did the month before. With the dexterity of a surgeon, my mom or dad would then make a little pencil mark above my head into the wall indicating how little or how much I’d grown since the last time the measurement was taken. I remember the excitement I felt when the mark was noticeably higher and the disappointment I felt when it wasn’t. The date the measurement was taken was duly recorded next to the mark. Much like a tree trunk grows a ring in its circle for each year that goes by, the marks were a reminder of where I had been and just how far I had left to go.

I’ve carried over the same tradition with Anna. Right there in what we call our dining room is a little spot on the wall etched with pencil marks and dates. Since I only get to see her every other week, she always looks likes she’s gotten bigger to me. Maybe it has to do with her turning ten and her body is readying itself for puberty or maybe it’s because I’d failed to take notice of her when she left the last time. Every time I see her I seem to say to myself, “How much you’ve grown!” Every so often she asks to be measured and I’ll always oblige. Naturally, the marks have gotten progressively higher as time has moved on and the dates that we originally recorded when we first started this little game seem so far away. They serve a purpose though..

The other night, after she had gone to bed, I was sitting around cleaning up scraps of paper from a little project we’re working on. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Anyway, I glanced over at where the little tick marks and the dates were etched in the wall and I realized just how fast time marches on. Each little mark on the wall caused me to remember something about the time it was taken, something about the circumstances of the day that made it almost seem to be needed to be taken.

Maybe she was feeling small that day, maybe there were hurt feelings amongst her friends and she needed a visual indicator to see how her life was progressing. Maybe it was me, just trying to believe my eyes.

We still do it you know. Every now and then, we get out the pencil and record our findings against the wall. There’s probably a hint of the same smile that I exchanged with my parents when point B was noticeably far removed from point A. I guess when you're ten, puddles can become oceans and inches can seem like miles.

I’m sure that as time goes on, the ritual and the frequency of the recording of the tick marks will ebb. She’ll come to realize, much like we all do, that being “grown up” isn’t measured in those terms. I’m hoping those days are still far away but even if they are, the knowledge that they are coming is enough.

In retrospect, time seemed to be in abundance back when I was that little shit so many years ago and maybe it is for her too. At the time, I thought those little marks on the wall were made just for me so that I could measure myself against the world.

Little did I realize they were made for the parents too…

This past weekend we did the annual ritual of packing away Christmas at our house. I am always amazed at how much faster and easier it is to disassemble Christmas than it is to put it into place. What had taken most of a day to get just right took just a couple hours to tear down and pack away, each piece in it's appropriate storage container.

To me, it's 'our house' because I inherited it as part of the package which included my then new wife, her 2 girls and the house she got in the divorce settlement. That was 15 years ago and it's still not my home. Home is the place you grow into, just as the bloom grows from the flower, inextricably part of the whole. I didn't buy this house, nor did I contribute to its early store of memories, so I am an addition, somewhat like the furniture. I don't think this place will ever be home because for me, it simply can't become what it isn't.

For our kids, the 2 girls she had before my appearance on the scene and our son who came along after our marriage, the house is home. It's what they've always known, what they grew up with, grown into. It's the warehouse of most of their domestic memories. It's the scent of frying bacon, the taste of hot biscuits, the smell of the coffee perking. It's the chores of feeding the dogs and the goldfish. It's where they lay in bed on those still muggy summer nights, listening to the distant rumble of thunder. It's where they played in the snow, in the rain, in the mud. It's where they got their knees scrubbed, got their boo-boos fixed and kissed, where they brought their first broken hearts for mending. It's the training ground for the time when they go forth and establish a home, taking with them the knowledge they've accumulated.

I watched my wife going about, packing, looking at particular decorations and as always we played "remember when we got this" decoration and how it tied into a particular time in our lives. I watched her, watched her unfailing cheerfulness and the fun she and the kids were having. The kids, both being teenagers, tried their best to appear like it wasn't fun, but I saw through their act. I saw that as they listened to the stories that we told of our childhood Christmases from so long ago that they did really listen. I watched as my wife performed magic, that delicate, incredibly valuable magic, of weaving the memories that our kids will carry into their tomorrows, to fall perhaps into the tiny ears of children we have yet to meet and love. I watched my wife create yesterdays for our kids...and for a time I was home again.

Submitted for E2 Quest: More Than Walls

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