Permanent marker scent still lingers in the nursery after a short while ago it had squeaked against the molding of the doorframe marking the height of our, now walking child. His crystal-clear, deep ocean blue eyes looking back at me in delight; but with a wondering look. Always curious. Absorbing everything around him. I think to myself how lucky we are to have such an inquisitive little guy.
“Look how much you have grown since you first started walking!” It is just me and him in the book themed nursery where we share most of our days. As he walks over to his rocking horse and climbs on, I sit down in the gray cushioned glider and watch him laughing. Still thinking to myself about all that God has planned for this little guy. For now, just remembering the importance of imagination and play.
The squeaking of the felt tip permanent marker pierces through me as if it was a siren. The scent irritates me. The migraines continually get worse and trying to stay motivated to entertain his growing mind gets harder. Then there is a giggle and I turn around.
“Mama, look!” He says as he tries to climb his tall black bookcase.
“Look what I can do!”
“Bubba! Stop! That is not a ladder!”
“But it looks like one! See all the animals that are climbing it too?” He points to the stuffed animals along the edge of the shelf above him.
“Climb down, now! I don’t want you to get hurt.”
He slips and tumbles down. He stands up and rubs his head.
“Mama, my head hurts.” I immediately run over to him and check for any injury.
“That is why I told you not to climb the bookshelf love.” I pick him up and head on over to the glider with the gray cushions. With a stream of tears falling slowly from his ocean blue eyes, he wraps his arms around my neck and whispers something so faintly. If it wasn’t for the sensation of his breath on my cheek, I may not have known he had said anything.
“Are you okay? Speak louder please. I didn’t hear what you said.” I pull him onto my lap so our gaze can meet.
“I just was saying I love you.” He wipes his eyes and then rubs his head.
“I love you too. So much honey.” Then we just rocked. Both of our heads resting on one another’s. Each of them throbbing but the comfort of each other makes any trouble subside. I take in the conversation like medicine for the soul.
Running my finger across the red mark left by a pen on the white paint of the doorframe, far above my eye level. The smell of cleaning products tickles my nose. I hear stomping coming up the stairs and a voice echoing. I look at each individual mark and think about the journey we have been on together. The nursery has turned into a teenagers’ room. Full of music, books and airplane models. Those deep ocean blue eyes still inquisitive, still learning whenever he can. I place the folded laundry I have for him on his unmade bed. Just like his Mom.
“Mom! Didn’t you hear me? I can’t find the car keys and I have practice in a half hour.”
I just stop and stare at this grown boy in front of me. Wondering where time went.
“Did you check on the counter by the coffee pot? I saw them there this morning. If they aren’t there, check your coat pocket.”
I hear the stomping continue as he runs down stairs. I turn to leave his room and help him round up the keys, when I catch a glimpse of a little framed picture. Two hands intertwined leaned against a children’s book.
“Where did my little baby go?” I say to myself out loud.
“I’m right here.” He says smiling at me as he jingles the keys.
“Are you okay Mom?” He walks over to me and gives me a hug.
“Yes Bubba. I’m okay. Just reminiscing.” I take in the embrace and feel the same comfort and love that I did so many years ago as we shared the gray glider.
“Okay Mom. I have to go. I’ll be late.” I gently squeeze his hand three times, a family way of saying, “I love you.” He squeezes back and then leaves.
No new line on the doorframe. Just a young man, hurrying to get ready. I sneak in his room for one quick reason.
“Come on! One last mark. For your Mom.”
“Mom, I think I’m done growing! It would be ridiculous.” He bantered back as he grabbed his portfolio from his desk. As he was adjusting his bow tie in the dresser mirror, I noticed a small toy dinosaur sticking out of one of the model airplanes. I laughed out loud.
“What is so funny? Is my bow tie crooked? Is it my hair?” All his questions just make me laugh even harder.
“No, you look great!” I try to reassure him through bouts of laughter. “It’s the dinosaur! Is it wearing flight goggles?” I am now in hysterics.
“It can’t fly a bi-plane without it Mom. Seriously, do I look okay? This interview is super important.” He is just getting more nervous searching his reflection for something out of place.
“You look perfect. You are perfect. I love that you never lost your sense of imagination. Keep it that way kiddo.” I brushed off his suit jacket.
“Okay Mom, one more mark. I love that you never stopped me from using it.” He pulled me in for a huge hug. I then pulled the marker I had in hopes he’d agree, hid in my back pocket. He laughed and walked over to the doorframe.
“I will use a thick marker this time. You know, to make it final.”
“Need a chair Mom?” He asked teasingly through a grin.
“I’ll just stand on my tippy toes.” I stood as tall as I could. The smell of the permanent marker starting to take me back to the very first time we did this. It squeaked across the molding for the final time.
A final bold tick mark is visible on the doorframe. The scent of permanent marker, non-existent. The scent of dust lingers. Imprints are left from the tall black bookshelf which held all the little boys’ treasures. The gray glider that had been replaced by a computer desk, too has left tracks in the beige carpet. An empty house full of memories with a doorframe highlighted by a sons’ growth marks and the growth of a bond.