Guest Post: Growth Lines Keep a Family’s Memory From Fading

I’m so happy to share with you a guest post from Gian Trotta, a home-improvement writer who lives in Newtown, CT with his wife and six-year-old daughter. He moved to Connecticut three years ago after completing a gut-level (and gut-wrenching) renovation of a 164-year-old Brooklyn, NY townhouse

When people leave a house, their presence can linger in myriad ways.

In the case of our Connecticut home, a steadily ascending tier of dated lines on the side of one door in our home charts the growth of the previous owners’ two daughters until they were 8 and 10 years old. Dated multicolored pencil, ink and magic-marker lines marked with “A” (for Annie) and “K” (for Katie) showed the girls’ steady ascension over the years.

At times the lines were widely spaced, showing the girls going through growth spurts. At other times, the lines and markings themselves are squiggly and haphazard, as if the measurements were hurried as the young ladies had places to go.

We didn’t push the previous owner to paint over or clean off the lines before we moved in, as we both had more pressing details than the door to attend to in order to make closing. An inspection had showed that the property was in violation of some village codes. Since Michael, the father, was being relocated to Vermont for work, he wanted to sell the house as much as we wanted to buy it. So he and I spent an afternoon drilling anchor posts into the rocky Connecticut soil and running cables over the outbuildings to bring the home up to wind-resistance requirements.

As we worked together, he filled me in with many details about the house, and I half-jokingly told him that we would never paint over the growth lines and he could come back anytime with the girls and resume the measurements.

Repainting the door stayed near the bottom of my punch list as more pressing projects took precedence. After a while, we realized the lines had just kind of … well, grown on us and we did want to remove such a vibrant vestige of the earlier inhabitants’ vitality.

In time, we might just work out a deal to replace the door with a new one and give them the old one to take back to their new home in Vermont. But just the other day, my daughter asked if we could start charting her growth on the door, so I emailed Michael to ask permission if we could add Thea’s height lines to the door. He gracefully granted the request, along with a promise to bring the girls by for a visit the next time they were in Connecticut.

— Gian Trotta is an Associate Editor at Consumer Reports’ Home and Garden section. You can read his blog postings on other home-related issues here.

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2 Responses to “Guest Post: Growth Lines Keep a Family’s Memory From Fading”

  1. Cindy says:

    Wow! It’s really cool Gian has this relationship with the previlous owner of their home. There’s no way I could leave all of those precious memories about my babies behind! The thought of painting over this would have never crossed my mind. I would have been taking apart the door jam and replacing that piece of wood so I could take it with me. That said: We seem to move a lot (my oldest is 6 and has lived in 4 homes). So, we bought some molding, hung it on a nail in the lanudry room and it comes with us to each new house we buy. :)

    My kids and I love comparing their heights to mine on the chart at my Mom’s house. Thinking ahead, we ended up making a wood chart for each of our three boys. They don’t know it yet, but that will be a gift to them when they have their own kids. Then their children can compare how they “measure up” to their Dad.

  2. Kathy says:

    Oh my gosh, Cindy! You are one amazing mom. These are such great ideas! Thanks a million.