I clamped my hands over my mouth, giggling. Mama lowered her thin hand, pencil and all, and shook her head. And yet, her smile only grew wider. Her eyes crinkled as her mouth stretched across her face.
“Baby, you gotta hold still, or else I can’t mark it.”
“Do you think I grew?” I asked her. I hoped I grew. I wanted to show her I could grow big and tall, like her.
“I think you did, but we need to measure so I can tell.”
Mama gently pushed my shoulder against the closet threshold, holding me as still as she could. Her fingers felt cold through my yellow sunflower dress. “Stand tall now.” She said as she lifted my chin.
I pushed my back against the threshold and inched my way onto my toes. Mama laughed and gave my shoulder a small squeeze.
“I’m not!” I giggled, landing hard on my heels.
The slightly warped mirror wiggled slightly, then settled itself once more on the vanity. Lights danced all across the ceiling and walls, filling the room with sunlight and making the walls more buttery instead of creamed corn.
Mama tickled me on my belly and wrapped me into a tight bear hug. Her hugs aren’t as strong as they used to be, but that was because of the special medicine the doctors gave her. She told me this medicine would give her special powers and make her stronger, but it had to make her weaker first, so she could feel better and not have headaches anymore.
“Okay…there!” mama struck the pencil across my head and sat back on her heels. I hopped away and looked at the new mark she’d made. I tilted my head to the side and squinted. The space wasn’t any bigger than a blade of grass, but there was still a space.
“I grew! I grew!” I yelled and danced around, swinging my arms wide and waving them around in big circles.
Mama laughed and clapped, stopping occasionally to cough. I almost tripped over my loose shoelace, but Mama caught me. We both fell over into a pile of giggles and wrapped arms.
“My baby grew! My baby grew! I knew you did.” She nuzzled into my hair as she held me close. The smell of lemons and just-washed bed sheets filled my nostrils as I inhaled deeply.
“I knew my baby grew. You’re gonna grow up to be big and strong.”
“Like you, Mama?”
Mama tucked a stray hair behind my ear and cradled my face with her soft as velvet hands. They felt cool on my face as her thumb brushed across my cheek. “ No, baby, you’re gonna be stronger than me.”
“But what about your medicine? Isn’t that going to make you stronger?”
“Yes, it will. But when you get big and tall, you won’t need any of that medicine. You’re gonna be strong without it.”
I blinked and found myself staring at the threshold, the marks still visible and fresh as the day they were made. The only measurement of time was the pale cream paint peeling off the wood moldings.
For a moment, I didn’t know where I was - the centuries-old Singer sewing machine no longer tucked away into the corner next to the window, no light reflecting off the slightly warped mirror resting on top of the splintering veneered vanity, and no twin-sized hospital bed tucked between the window and the wall, blankets and pillows strewn all over it like a giant nest.
I looked toward the source of the voice calling my name, and found a man standing in the doorway. His hand rested against the frame, relaxed yet pensive. The gold ring on his finger glinted in the morning light, sending little blips of bright lights dancing on the opposite wall. I couldn’t help but smile, the colors taking on that old buttery feel from so long ago.
“You okay?” he asked.
I stared at him for a moment, then slowly nodded.
He moved away from the frame and inched closer into the room, looking around for any invisible trip wires he could set off. His fingers grazed the window sash and up the lace curtains, counting each daisy petal stitched in the fabric.
“Lot of memories in here.” he sighed.
Was it a question? Or was it more like a small attempt of comfort to test the waters of my emotions?
I smiled at the idea of him dipping a toe into a lake, a man I knew couldn’t stand being even five feet near any sizable body of water, and stood up. Before he could say anything else, I wrapped my arms around his middle and squeezed. A silent thank you for everything he’s done, and everything he is. He answered with a kiss to the top of my head and his own arms wrapping around me, enveloping me into his warmth. Into his safeness.
We turn together toward the door, watching a small little girl waddle into the room, enveloped in an oversized MIT shirt, her stuffed bunny dragging on the ground behind her.
“Hi Honey,” my husband let go of me and scooped up our daughter, “how did you sleep?”
She shrugged as she rubbed her eye. I brushed the stray hairs out of her face and gently placed a kiss on her forehead. Little fingers touched my cheek, recognizing me with touch instead of sight. She swung her head this way and that, slowly coming to terms with her surroundings, focusing on the marks on the doorframe.
“What’s that?” She pointed toward the lines with her bunny.
“That’s when your Gramma used to measure how tall I was when I was your age.”
“I wanted to know if I was growing.” I chuckled. “All little kids do.”
“Of course I did.” my husband smiled. “I wanted to be as tall as a tree!”
“That’s silly, Daddy!” my little girl giggled. “People can’t be like trees.”
She stared at the markings, slowly rubbing the ears on her bunny.“Can we measure me?”
I smiled, a tear misting in my eye.
“Of course we can, but you gotta hold still.”