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Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Happy

*Proper names have been changed to protect against potential embarrassment ;)


“Nana, measure me!”

The memory is still vivid; evoking the excitement of two preschoolers jumping up and down beside me as I hold the pencil and the ruler over one child’s head at a time. Oh, how I dread the day the grandkids will no longer want to be measured on the wall behind the office door. 

It was a family tradition we had had when our sons were old enough to stand by our kitchen wall. Always excited to see what new heights they were reaching in their race to ‘grow up’. Their measurements showed separations due to a four-year age gap, then intertwined and danced along the painted wall like an earthly aurora borealis. Today, they share an almost identical height as age made no impact on growth.

Growth. Growing up. Grown up. Growing older. 

My granddaughter, Celine, is younger than her brother by two years. But fiercely competitive – even with growth charts. 

“Nana, why didn’t I grow more?”

Time for a science lesson on biology? Or time to talk about differences with boys’ and girls’ growth patterns and statistics? 

“You will grow, sweet pea. There will be a time when you will grow faster than Connor. Should we mark your line in purple for your growth today?” And with the utmost care, the tiny line just a millimeter above the earlier one was made more distinguishable.

Measurements were not just about growth. Our sons’ lines had been painted over in those last months before my husband and I left our home of 35 years. Underneath the coat of grey galactic winter, measurements marked the events of a family living in the 80s and 90s. The memories were tied to birthdays, new school years, holidays or just “can I see how much I’ve grown?” Thus the kitchen wall recorded and held the spirit of our family’s existence, like an indelible ink written upon parchment in The Book of Life. 

There had been no plan to measure the grandchildren when we downsized. When they were still so very young and coming to our old home, I would trace their bodies on large sheets of roll-end newspaper. Cutting the shapes out and having them color in facial features and clothing, I taped their outlines to the wall. “We’re not babies anymore.”

Serendipity. Connor and Celine and their very first sleepover in the new home. A time of exploration (“let’s play hide and seek, Grandad”) and excitement, sleeping in bunk beds at ages of “almost four and almost six”. The realization that time was slipping away with new activities and preschool and kindergarten and their own little friends. A comment about how they were growing so much as they were about to go home. 

“Is it ok if I measure how tall they are?” And a spontaneous decision to use the narrow space behind the French door to the office. A ruler and pencil in a nearby desk and the first lines were drawn.

Measuring Connor and Celine became an expectation at every sleepover. The lines were a visual wall calendar of the times they made cookies together with Grandad, some art or craft project with Nana or just enjoyed the work of being a child.

“Can I show you a magic trick?” when Celine was determined to master the art of illusion. “Hey, Nana, knock, knock,” when Connor shared his ‘tried and true’ jokes.

Family meals and family celebrations. And always, the movie night with popcorn popped on the stove, root beer floats, chocolate-covered peanuts and gummy candies.

On one visit, Connor was so excited to show his parents his height, that he rubbed his finger over the fresh line. And because I had used a soft B pencil, the markings smeared. Both his and Celine’s. Adding another memory in my heart as I treasured his “come and see” excitement.

There was the sleepover that made for a mad dash to the all-night pharmacy when Celine was ill and wanted to go home. With Mom and Dad away for short trip, a little girl missed her parents when she wasn’t feeling well. “I’m ok. We can still measure me.”

After that visit, there were now photos printed off at home, pulled from their suitcases and taped to the wall by their bunk beds. Photos that were switched around on the very special night that Celine achieved ‘top bunk’ status. She was now tall enough and old enough to climb the ladder to sleep on the exclusive bed that had an unique attraction. The bed lined up with a basement window that was wide enough for a six-year-old to hide on the sill; with the curtains covering her. “Nana, is it ok if I keep this notebook and pencil up here?” “Of course, you can. Is there still room for a Kleenex box and your flashlight as well?”

The lines in the office tell of giggles and whispers and fights between siblings. Of late nights and of too-early morning awakenings. Of times when they wanted Nana to sing their songs before they went to sleep or times when Grandad read each child the same book, over and over again, even though it was a picture book without words.

And then Covid happened. 

The lack of measurements in the office matches the seriousness and precautions that were taken by all of us. An early visit in January, 2020 (with corresponding measurements), pit stops on the door steps or backyards of our homes. Thanksgiving celebration in their garage. “Come and see the autumn tree I painted.” A masked Celine steers us to the tall cardboard tree in reds and oranges. “Watch me shoot hoops” as Connor practiced and practiced his layouts and footwork on the driveway, in the cold.

Covid meant that Connor and Celine were now being measured at home and telling us what those numbers were in metric. Statistics that we never added to our wall of visits though. 

Instead, we had FaceTime calls. “Will you show us how much you are both growing? Stand back to back and we can take a photo, ok?” Other times, they stood back to back with their parents. And we saw just how tall they truly were growing. 

Vaccinations for all of us adults and finally, for them. One overnight in the summer. With star gazing and their version of a mini-Olympics, complete with ribbons and cookie medals. That had been the summer of 2021, before they returned to school and we had all tested negative so we could have the visit. They took home ‘gold’ for their growth …emotionally, physically and cognitively.

At the end of 2021, we celebrated Christmas with them and they had two overnight visits with us during their holidays. That is when we discovered that I had made some poor measurements. 

“Nana, how come I was higher last summer?” Connor hadn’t failed to see the discrepancy of his last two sizes in height.

“Well, maybe your hair was higher?!” I really couldn’t admit to fudging results that gave just a little bit more growth to either of them. “I guess I wasn’t very careful in holding the ruler straight, eh?”

We had a visit this year before they returned to school in January. Somehow, in the hustle and bustle of the visit, no measurements were taken. The regret of a missed measurement hits me whenever I am in the office and spy the smudged and confusing lines that have been haphazardly recorded on the wall. Why hadn’t I insisted on their parents waiting while we completed this one rite between two generations sharing a moment in time?

Today, I am at their aunt and uncle’s home, caring for the grand-kitties, when Connor, Celine and their mother come for a walk along the river valley. Another visit that again will have no measurements; no lines on our wall at home. Just a discussion on my short story.

“I’m writing about how you have been measured when you come to stay at our place. But I have no idea how to end the story.”

“Just write ‘Can we measure you, Nana?’” Celine doesn’t even pause to think about it and Connor grins and shakes his head ‘yes’.

I have to laugh. Connor stands at my shoulder and Celine is just below my shoulder. I wrap my arms around one on each side of me and say “yes, you can measure me.”

For in the future, the near future, they will no longer want to visit us for sleepovers. They will be too ‘grown-up’ to be measured on a wall. 



March 31, 2022 19:23

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23 comments

Debra Brown
18:57 Apr 08, 2022

Thus the kitchen wall recorded and held the spirit of our family’s existence, like an indelible ink written upon parchment in The Book of Life. That for me was the heartbeat of this story. Loved it. Kudos on your writing. Deb

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Francis Daisy
11:26 Apr 08, 2022

I should have made room for kleenex on my bed as I sit here reading your story. It's amazing how this prompt generated so many stories and how each one is different, yet so very much the same. Yours is the first one that brought COVID into the story and that really struck a chord with me. My own daughters have completely lost touch with their grandparents. The grandparents that used to come and visit monthly. They would spend at least a weekend, and sometimes we could talk my mom into spending a few extra days and then we would take another ...

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Lavonne H.
15:50 Apr 08, 2022

Oh, Francis! Kleenex??! Wow. For a story I only wrote because I wrote an earlier one for that contest that came out ...dark and ugly. (No! don't read that one. It's about a different mother and not like us at all.) Your daughters accomplished so much during these Covid times; I know their grandparents will be so proud of them. Even your youngest who may surprise and FT them out of the blue. I honestly wanted to transfer the boys' measurements to a board but I have discovered that their generation will keep one or two things. I think the stor...

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Francis Daisy
11:52 Apr 09, 2022

Lavonne, Well now I definitely want to at least peek at the dark side! I am a wee bit jealous of you: you whipped out two stories in one week? Good for you! If only life didn't keep getting in the way at my house....:) FD

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Lavonne H.
12:03 Apr 09, 2022

Francis, I have to confess. I am going home after two weeks looking after my 3 grand-cats! In fact, one of the little muses is asleep on my lap right now making it very difficult to get away from the pc! ;) ;) Writing two stories was only because of my scary thoughts around the first one; I wasn't sure the 2nd one was "good enough" but am amazed at how vast the scope was for that prompt! I loved reading the stories of the other writers. Going home today so my life will get back to 'getting in my way' of writing (hee, hee, I am also retired s...

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Francis Daisy
12:20 Apr 09, 2022

Lavonne, Cat heating pads are the best. My daughter allows me to have visits with her cat now and then also. And, if I am really lucky, my other daughter lets me have a whole weekend with her twin boys. (still talking cats here!) I don't seem to notice the fur so much...maybe it is all of my dog's hair blinding me. :) Ah...retirement. I wonder what that will be like...it feels far away, yet creeping ever so close. I can't imagine leaving a job that I love. You know the saying, love what you do and do what you love. I am living that dream fo...

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Lavonne H.
14:31 Apr 09, 2022

Me too! Looking forward to yours as well. Will talk heating pads sometime as that is another 'story'! Have a great weekend. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Jesse Traynham
23:45 Apr 07, 2022

As a soon-to-be empty nester, this story hits home, but in a sweet way. Time sure flies. I can identify with the "how do I end this story" part. That said, the ending was perfect. Thanks for a good read.

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Lavonne H.
01:26 Apr 08, 2022

Thank your for reading and sharing with me! I am blessed to have such a special granddaughter who turns 9 later this month. She loves writing as well so I can't wait for our next sleepover and can share the story with her ;) I have always believed that time flies so much when we are parents because we are so busy when they are young. And even teens/early adults still at home need us. My husband and I began to travel when the boys left so congrats on when you achieve 'empty nester' status! May the next years be a time of experiences and new s...

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Michał Przywara
21:21 Apr 06, 2022

Lovely story. It's sweet, and then there's that sudden dark twist that I think we're all too familiar with, COVID. I wonder how many other important rituals it's disrupted? But the ending is a high note. It really is a perfect suggestion, because height measurements aren't really about height measurements, are they? It's like you said, two generations bonding. Thanks for sharing!

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Lavonne H.
21:28 Apr 06, 2022

Thank you, Michal! For reading the story and commenting on it. I intended it to be a bit of light writing (to cleanse my soul after writing for another prompt that week). So not a serious piece as it was a chance to play with complete and incomplete sentences (lol...us writers, eh?) So very glad to have been introduced to your work; looking forward to learning from your writing. Maybe Reedsy will have a Covid prompt (if they haven't had one yet.) Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Sharon Hancock
01:28 Apr 06, 2022

Awe this is fantastic I love it! So sweet and brings back so many memories of watching my parents measure my girls on their wall. My girls used to spend every Friday with my dad until COVID and they just started back. My dad keeps saying they probably don’t want to bc they’re 17 and 20 now, but they look forward to their time with him. 😻

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Lavonne H.
04:30 Apr 06, 2022

Sharon, that is soooooo lovely of your daughters . . . to have such a great connection with their grandfather. I too hope the kids will want to carry it onward but when you're a teenager, it becomes less cool. Thanks for liking it (I just had to write something to get rid of the awful feeling around the first story for the other prompt). I am down to my last 4 days of grand cat-sitting. I have learned a lot about cats (soon to become a story sometime!) Although, how does one type with a cat on their lap??? Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Sharon Hancock
01:19 Apr 07, 2022

Haha our cats love to sit between us and whatever device we’re typing on and then bump our hands as we type. Weird cuddly little balls of fluff😻

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Zack Powell
00:12 Apr 05, 2022

Props to you for doing two stories this week, Lavonne! (I struggled even cobbling one together.) And this one looks nothing like the other one. Kudos to you. This is a very wholesome story. I love how the ending is an inversion of the beginning. It gives the piece a sense of connectedness and also highlights the change in the characters (or people, rather, since this is nonfiction) and the passage of time. The last paragraph is a perfect closer, and I'm glad you stopped it there instead of overwriting. I 100% agree with Riel about the Covid ...

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Lavonne H.
14:50 Apr 05, 2022

Zack, Are you sure you are not an English teacher by day? Or in another life? I feel like I have just gotten an A+ for a story that was only meant to cleanse my soul after writing such an unusual (for me) story for the other prompt. And whatever YOU cobble together is always so readable, so enticing, so well crafted, that I aspire more to learn from your guidance. You actually helped me see aspects of my story that I hadn't realized were: ""the ending is an inversion of the beginning" and "sense of connectedness". Thank you for reinforci...

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Riel Rosehill
20:25 Apr 04, 2022

Hi Lavonne! This one was such a lovely, cosy read, and it was adorable how you even mentioned writing this story in the story! Loved that. I have to say, this line was a gut punch, and was timed perfectly: "And then Covid happened." Reality truly hits the hardest. Great use of the prompt (and credit to your grandkids for helping you with the end!), and I am so impressed that you managed to write two stories (and VERY different ones at that) for the same week!

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Lavonne H.
14:36 Apr 05, 2022

Ahhh, Riel. You always find the way to this old lady's heart! And it isn't through coffee either ;) ;) The feedback you give all of us is so positive and yet with direction as to what works, that I appreciate each and every word you scribe on the comments pages. (Sometimes I come across your comments for other writers and marvel at how intuitive your insights are.) I have so much to learn and truly appreciate all the wonderful ways you encourage one to go on. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Yours in writing, Lavonne PS I think I must have ...

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Riel Rosehill
15:54 Apr 05, 2022

Oh, thank you so much for this! I am not good at offering in depth and structured critique like some other writers here, and I often feel like my comments are not "good enough" so it is honestly so good to hear that my comments are still appreciated this much! PS - I know that feeling - last week I wrote my story on the last day and submitted it very last minute (and I think it definitely shows, haha)

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17:09 Apr 03, 2022

A sweet story :) Spot on with the nostalgic tone! Well done :)

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Lavonne H.
20:02 Apr 03, 2022

Jeannette, Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading and commenting on my 'little story'. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Felice Noelle
22:21 Apr 02, 2022

Lavonne: Wow! You got it 100% correct...that's exactly what a lot of us ol' fogies have experienced, well written. I detected a bittersweet quality that I loved. I take pleasure in being the first to like and comment on this story. One grandma to another, but I am about to graduate to great grandma next month. It's such a great time in life, isn't it! Great story that hit all the right emotions. Maureen

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Lavonne H.
22:37 Apr 02, 2022

Ahhhhh, Maureen. Thank you for reading my 'bit of fluff' and all the kudos! I have to admit that I almost didn't write this but I felt so...disgusted ... after I wrote my first one for another prompt, that I needed to ground myself as to who I really am. Congrats on almost being a great grandma! May your latest bundle of love give you stories to write. Yours in writing, Lavonne

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