I remember many things from my life. When I look back to childhood, there’s so much I could focus on. But no memory will ever be as ingrained in my head as my mother saying “grow up” is. I can see her face, the way her eyes narrowed, and how her mouth looked. How her voice sounded as she delivered this harsh statement.
I heard this statement many a time in my youth. Granted, it was almost always directed towards my father, not me. My parents tended to bicker, their words like venom. They fought a lot. I grew up on a farm. My dad spent every day working the land, while my mother taught at the elementary school in town. But my father always wanted to be more than a simple farmer. He wanted to be great.
In our kitchen, there was a well-worn wooden wall. Every year on my birthday, I would have my height marked. I stand in the kitchen now, staring at the lines.
This house has been in my family for generations. My father inherited it from his father, and his father from his, and so on. Now I would be getting it. I always thought of my father as a dreamer. My mother was a realist. I wonder often what lead them to love each other. I wonder often what lead them to stop.
I let my eyes fall down to the lowest marking of me. My first birthday. I don’t remember it of course, but I do remember the last time. I’ve grown, I realized. I suppose one might grow from the ages of seventeen to thirty.
I put my hand on age seventeen. At age seventeen I believed I was invincible. I left home looking for better. I thought myself to be a realist, but I know now I was still a dreamer. Only a foolish dreamer, believing I was better than what I came from.
I trace the marking for age twelve. At age twelve I thought myself to be a dreamer. I thought the world was mine to explore and experience. I had no issue believing myself to be special.
I let my fingers go down the wall to where I stood at age nine. At age nine I thought I understood the very workings of the universe. I realize now I was nothing more than an obnoxious child. I was convinced that I was smarter than just everybody. Not my parents though. I thought them to be geniuses in their own right. I still do, to be honest. Even now that they’re gone.
I glance a little further down to age five. At age five I had little understanding of the world. But I knew about my little world. This farm. I would run through the fields, exploring every inch. I knew every tree and rock. My world was my own slice of paradise. It was the most beautiful world to me.
I crouch down now to press my fingertips to age three. At age three what did I know? It would be easy to argue nothing, but I know I knew more. I understood love. Security. Safety. Warmth. In those days, my parents fit these ideas. They were nothing more than humans, but to me... oh to me. They were everything.
I sit down and stare at the first marking of mine, age one. At age one I suppose I really did know nothing. But I know one thing. I know that my parents used to play a game with me. My father would lay on his back, putting his legs in the air. My mother would put me on his feet and make sure I didn’t fall. My father would raise his legs, lifting me to the air, putting me higher. Teaching me to fly.
I suppose I was a dreamer just like him. Anyone taught to fly would be. I stand, going up to my full height, inches taller than I stood at seventeen. My mother and father are gone now. This house is their legacy. I suddenly get an idea. I look for something to write with and find a sharpie in one of the kitchen drawers.
I press my back against the wall and use the sharpie to try and mark my height. The line isn’t perfect. But I don’t try and fix it. Rather, I smile at it.
At age thirty, I have become somewhat of a realist, like my mother. I know who I am, and what I expect out of life. But I’m sure ten years from now, I’ll sit in this very kitchen and laugh at how naive I was. Truthfully, I know the dreamer inside will always remain.
One day, I shall mark my children’s height on this very wall. I will watch them grow, as my parents once watched me. I will live here, like my father, and his father before him. As my whole family did.
Then one day, I will pass it on, as it was passed to me.
I walk out to the front porch. There is a rocking chair, one that I’m told my grandmother used to sit in almost every day. I sit down and look at my world.
At age five, I seemed to have the most sense. This really is paradise. My father never did grow up as my mother wished him to. He grew older of course. But up until his death, he remained a dreamer. My mother remained a realist till the moment of hers.
I wonder if to her I grew up rather than grew. I like to think I did but one can never be certain. But, I reflect, maybe knowing that one can never be certain is a sign of my growth. And I do quite like to dream, despite the realist I have become. But nothing is wrong with that.
After all, I think feeling a fresh breeze and the warmth of the sun, after growing up here, how could one blame me?