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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2010-12-11 07:41 pm

Sentimental Sunday: The lines on the doorframe

In May 2008, central Arkansas was hit hard by tornadoes.

I had a daily reminder of them as I took a shortcut to work through a Little Rock neighborhood that was devastated by those storms.

Trees that are easily older than I were ripped out of the ground and tossed into the street, or onto a neighbor's house. The hop-skip-jump pattern of the tornado was easy to detect by the number of homes that have been torn completely down, and new (replacement) homes built on old foundations. Even three months later in August.

There was one house in particular that I was watching. The owners elected to tear down and start from scratch and they chose a new facade for the new home. It was almost complete, and sat on a corner lot right where I stopped each day, waiting for construction traffic to pass.
Back in the olden days when I was in grade school, one of my friends lived in that house. Her family hosted many a sleep-over there and her older brother used to scare the shit out of us when we "camped out" in the backyard. As I watched the rebuilding process, I wondered if her family still lived there. When we were in the third grade, her older brother died of leukemia in his fifth grade year. It was the first time I had known someone my age who had to deal with the death of a sibling. It made me look a little differently at my own sisters.

On a late August day as I made my way to work and approached the corner, I saw an old man getting out of a truck parked in front of the house. He reached into the bed of the truck and awkwardly heaved out what looked like a board wrapped up in some plastic trash bags. It was raining lightly, and he just stood there in the drizzle, looking at the house. The closer I got to the corner and the stop sign, the more familiar he looked.

So I stopped and parked behind his truck.

Telling myself I was going to scare an old man and make a fool of myself, I got out anyway. I stood a respectful distance away from him, and said what I hoped was his name. When I was a kid, we called all adults Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, and I did the same then.

He looked at me. Didn't recognize me. (It had only been 40 years.) I walked a little closer and told him who I was - at least who I was then.

His eyes lit up and he extended his hand to shake mine. He said, "I'd hug you but I'd have to put this down and I don't want it to get wet."

"This" turned out to be a piece of the kitchen doorframe. When I was a kid, just about every one of my friend's houses had the same one. So did mine.

The one where our parents had us stand up with our backs against it while they marked our height with lines - "My god, how you've grown!" - and put our initials and the date on it. My dad used a carpenter's pencil.

He said there was no choice but to tear the house down and start over. But not completely over.

Because the kitchen doorframe - the side where he marked my friend's changing height, as well as the height of the son he buried at age 11 - had survived the tornado.

So we went down the driveway still covered in sand and construction muck into the unfinished garage. He unwrapped the piece of the doorframe and showed it to me. And took me inside to show me where it would be placed by the carpenters that morning.
I got my hug, and left to go to work. But not before I sat in my car for a few moments with tears running down my face, and gave thanks for daddies who cherish the lines on the doorframe.

Sentimental Sunday: The Lines on the doorframe

[identity profile] (from 2010-12-12 04:28 am (UTC)(link)
What a beautiful story; it's fascinating to think about where and how we leave imprints of our family stories on our houses.