This isn’t the first time Sayles has had to struggle with leaving a piece of her children’s history behind. When her family moved out of a Brooklyn apartment in 2013, they couldn’t remove a sticker map on her sons’ bedroom wall. “We were so confused,” she says.
This time, Sayles is determined to bring the chart with him. “I thought about removing the doorway,” she says, but her husband has different ideas. “He thinks we should take pictures of it and recreate it in our new home. But we’re both torn because I feel it conveys something that didn’t happen in the new house.”
Many parents record the history of their children’s growth on a wall or door frame, etching the lines in pencil or marker with dates next to them. These measurements are a visual – and often sentimental – reminder of the passage of time. But when it’s time to renovate or move, parents realize they may have to paint over or leave behind a piece of their children’s past. However, some do not like either of these options, so they have devised ways to preserve the cards.
As Edie and Rick Roth prepared to sell their home in Mamaroneck, NY, in 2021, their grown children worried that three pieces of masking tape, tied to a door and used to mark their heights, wouldn’t make the move. don’t make Rick says that they didn’t really think about it – or think it would make sense – but after the kids mentioned it, he got to work scraping the tape off. He transferred the strips to a piece of plexiglass, and the marks are now in their new basement, located between a workshop and a wine cellar.
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Sometimes it is a home’s new owner who views a card sentimentally.
Kathy Lang recently bought a house in Bend, Oregon, and during the inspection realized that the previous owners had left a growth chart in the pantry. She wants to preserve it for the sellers, so instead of painting over it, she plans to “remove the plaster and frame it” as a gift.
Julie Mak, a genetic counselor in the Bay Area whose blog, Jewels at Home, focuses on design challenges, calls the growth chart conundrum an “old-school” problem. In addition to ideas on how to preserve existing maps, she suggests making a portable fabric map that you can fold up and take with you. “I’ve moved a few times, so I’m glad I didn’t do it on something permanent or something that was hard to move,” says Mak.
But if you have already marked heights on walls, how can you preserve them?
The simplest option is to photograph the chart and frame it. This allows for the preservation of the markings and allows the sizing of smaller spaces. That’s what Carolyn Judge, a ceramic maker living in Bronxville, NY, did in 2021 when she moved from Ridgefield, Connecticut. Depending on how precise you want to be, Mak says you can mark off 10-inch sections to photograph, “so you know it’s to scale if you’re printing an 8-by-10-inch image.” The photos can be framed individually and stacked on the wall, or combined into one long frame, or they can be transferred to a wooden board and hung, or applied to a new door frame.
Photos can also be converted to iron-on transfers, says Mak, and applied to a long piece of fabric. Avery and Epson are two of the companies that make products that allow you to do this at home with a printer.
Or, to replicate the chart yourself, you can trace the marks (and any handwritten scribbles) onto contact paper with a permanent marker, then transfer it to a new location or turn it into a free-standing card.
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Judge suggests buying carbon transfer paper to trace over the cards. Once you’ve located them, she says, you can take a roll of plain white newsprint, tape it over the paper and make a rub to transfer the image. The result will be a mirror image, so to make a replica, repeat the process using the rub as the original.
Or you can follow Mak’s example and go with something movable from the start. You can create your own chart, or, for those less handy, Lee Valley sells the blank Story Tape, a measuring tape that can be used to record children’s growth. There are also portable maps available online from a number of websites.
Rick Roth’s daughter, Jennifer Prussin, followed this route to record her children’s heights. “I bought height charts because it was a way to integrate some decoration on the walls,” she says. “Also, I didn’t know how long we would be staying in our house, so I wanted to make sure we could take whatever we were using.”
Ellen Rosen is a freelance writer in Larchmont, NY