There was a doorway in our old cottage on Commonwealth Ave, in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard. It connected the dining room with the living room, and it had no door. No, it had something far more important. It had marks in the doorway.
Every summer, since before I could even remember, we would make marks in that doorway. My mom and dad would measure each of us boys, all five of us. We could see how much we’d grown since the previous summer. There were a couple summers there where my marks were three or four inches apart. Over the course of three summers, it added up to ten inches! Boy, no wonder my mom had been taking me clothes shopping every month, for a while.
As my four brothers were so much older than I was, it wasn’t long before they grew up and moved on, living their own lives. Each summer, they measured me in the doorway. I missed the “group effort,” and longed to have someone to share that simple pleasure, that simple ritual. I began to invite my friends to add their marks to the doorway. As I was the last of our little group to get to the island each summer, the measurement ritual became a part of the start of summer. Sometimes even before we’d gotten the cottage opened up, our bags unpacked, and the beds made, we were standing tall in the doorway and grabbing a pencil!
Finally, late in my teens, I pretty much topped out at a few inches over six feet. My mark was the highest in the doorway. I found it funny that the lowest was also mine; that first mark from the summer of ’63, back when I was only a few months old. There were times I caught myself staring at those marks; so many years encapsulated by such simple little pencil lines. Every time we painted the walls, we made a special effort not to paint over those lines.
Then came the sad day when the cottage sold. I packed up as many memories as I could, but some things couldn’t move. The old doorway was one of them. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to leave those simple little lines b. I got a piece of paper and a pencil, and one of the measuring tapes my dad used. Slowly and carefully, I measured the height of each line, wrote down the number and then put the person’s name next to it. Once written down, from my first mark to my last mark, I got out the paint and did my duty.
A page turned, and I felt a bad ache.
I still have that page of notes. I’m really hoping that someday I have another doorway to put them on. It would be nice to have it before I’m a grandfather. I’d like to keep track of the kids’ growth, every summer that they come to visit me.
It’s nice to have a goal.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.