Scrap lumber, that’s what it really is, a pine board about 7 feet tall and 2 inches wide with a hole drilled in the top. Your grandfather made it. Actually he made two of them, one for each ofyou kids right after you were born – your special “grow sticks.” Poppy made the grow sticks so that the sprint of time couldn’t erase the dramatic changes that babies undergo to become adults. Rather than inscribe a door frame with ascending hatch marks to note yourincreasing height, you always had your grow stick hanging in the bedroom to record that progression. All three bedrooms: The first in Charlottesville that you shared with Alex when we brought you home from the hospital. Your second bedroom was here in Roanoke – a small room, but big enough for your crib and the room you insisted on because it was next to Allie. You took possession of your third and last bedroom, as a middleschooler when you moved across the hall to a more spacious room that would better accommodate sleepovers and loud music. Your grow stick was installed next to the closet and you kept growing and recording the miraculous transformations life brings.
It is infinitely precious for me to translate the scratchy marks you made on that board next to the closet. Naturally the top mark is Dan, tall papa, rock of our family. I remember each and every notation on the wood. How excited you were when you were “officially” taller than me – 3/01. You were 12. As a little girl you were amazed to see the mark that showed “ how big I was when I got borned.”7/24/89 you were 19 ½ inches long. The lowest marks near the ground are really hilarious, where you kept the pet record. I smile to see that our kitten Zeb was 7 inches tall on 9/92. I recall the difficulty your 3 year old self had taking that measurement; though it was not nearly as hard as making your parakeet Opal sit still long enough to be recorded on 4/99.
For the record Morgan, you have shrunk to a dimension of 10x10x4; the size of the cigar box where you now reside.
Memories permeate the marks you inscribed in the wood grain of your grow stick. Contemplating it is bittersweet but the sadness is tolerable because we had much fun with the silliness of the task. What is still excruciating beyond bearing is the flip side of the board. That’s where you planned to chart the growth of your own children, your anticipated family. Those beloveds who will never exist were also stolen from us. The unmarked and forever empty expanse of wood on the flip side is invisibly inscribed with pain, a virtual Rosetta Stone of loss.
In the midst of agony Morgan, your family chooses strength. We choose survival. We choose love. Wecontinue to choose, insist upon, and embrace growth.
Always, 241, Mama