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Rebecca Ney


readingThe Doorframe

I run my hand along the blank white panel. It is smooth and different than when I had last seen it. Tracing imaginary horizontal lines along the wide doorframe, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I remember a time when life was simpler, when change never crossed my mind, when my routine was always the same. The doorframe is a symbol of my family's history. I slip into a time when all the pieces seemed to be in place…

* * *

I make my way up the old, rickety stairway. It creaks and groans with each step I take and I feel as though it might crumble into pieces beneath me. The screen door slams behind me and makes me jump. Entering the small back porch, I slip off my shoes and open the second door. I struggle as I rattle the handle and shove my body against the door to get it to budge. Once inside, the warmth of the room surrounds my body but at the same time gives me a shiver of anticipation. Grandpa sits at the old wooden table watching 60 Minutes. The sound blares through the speakers and fills the room. He quickly turns the television off with a click. I give him a hug hello accompanied by our usual wink. I can hear Grandma in the dining room humming a familiar tune as she sets the table for our weekly Sunday night dinner.

I walk over to the doorframe and see a series of parallel lines denoting each generation's height measurements. Turning my back to the frame, I stand as straight and tall as I can. I put my hand on top of my head and hold my finger to the new spot. I turn around to see how much I have grown since my last visit. Grandpa stands up slowly, and walks over to me with a pencil in hand. He chuckles at how hard I am trying to make myself taller. He draws a new mark, a millimeter above the last one and writes my initials and the date: R.N. May 12, 1996. I scan through each height measurement, my hand drifting over each one. I smear the newest measurement. I look up into Grandpa's warm, bright blue eyes. The whiskers are starting to appear on his face even though it's only 3:00 PM. My voice cracks, "Grandpa, what if you move? What will happen to all the marks?" He stares blankly at me and his face starts to change. The wrinkles seep deeper and the circles darken under his eyes. He looks forlorn. How would we be able to leave this house or paint over such a sacred spot? He does not say anything. He knows that I do not understand, but he slowly walks away.

“Grandpa?” I call after him, but I know not to follow him. I kneel and turn to look at the first measurement with my name on it. Mom had stopped at the house after my first check-up to record my height: 24 inches. I cannot believe how much I have grown since then. I am over half the length of the doorway. I look over the other height measurements, scanning through dozens of marks of siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. A record of our family over the past fifty years. Cousin Jake has the highest spot just inching past Dad’s measurement. He bows to get through doorways. Lindsey has passed Grandma June and is nearing Mom’s 68 inch frame. I wonder if she will be taller or if I will surpass them both.

            "Grandpa?" I call for him again. I hear his slippers scuff across the floor as he finally reappears. I wrap my arms around his waist. I give him a nod, and place my small hand in his. We both take one last glance at the doorframe.

* * *

            I stand in the kitchen and stare down at the real estate pamphlets on the kitchen table. Boxes clutter the space, taint it with their bland exterior, and steal the items they contain from their rightful spot. Drop cloths litter the floor splattered with drips of paint and scattered with brushes and trays. I look over at the doorframe and see it has not been painted yet. I feel a flutter in my stomach, still hoping it will be preserved. I glance at the floor and I feel a sense of revulsion at the can of paint sitting innocently on the counter adjacent to the doorframe. Unopened, waiting for the moment when its purpose will be fulfilled. I hear a voice from behind me.

“We’re getting there,” Dad says, as he walks through the screen door into the kitchen.

“I don’t want to get there,” I say, as the teen angst oozes from my pores.

“Bec, come on, you know we have to do this.” He tries to pat me on the shoulder, but I shrug him off. He sighs and walks over to the can sitting on the kitchen counter next to the doorframe. I watch as he pries off the top and pours the paint into a nearby tray.

“What are you doing?” I exclaim, my voice shaking.

“The new family isn’t going to want our marks on the doorframe,” he says with forced patience.

“I thought you were going to try and save it,” I say with indignation, fighting back the tears.

“I thought so too, but the wood will snap in half if I try to pry off the frame,” he says sadly. I can tell he is exhausted. He picks up the brush, dips it in some paint, and slowly, reluctantly brushes over the measurements. “Bec, hand me…” he trails off as he hears the slam of the screen door and looks over his shoulder to an empty room.

* * *

            We all loved the doorframe. It was one of the first places we went when we walked through Grandma and Grandpa’s home. There was always a sense of earnest excitement to see if we had grown from the previous visit. Grandpa and Grandma are gone and the house has been sold to a new family. Our history is hidden underneath layers of paint. All the time we spent there existed at that very spot. Now it is gone. I hope the new family will record their history in the same spot.

            Many people use a door as a metaphor for the future. For me it will always be a metaphor of my past. I carry those memories with me as I step into a new place, where growth will not be measured in inches on a doorframe, but in knowledge gained and experiences shared.