It’s not the first time Sayles has had to wrangle with leaving behind a piece of her children’s history. When her family was relocating from a Brooklyn apartment in 2013, they couldn’t remove a sticker chart on her boys’ bedroom wall. “We were so bummed,” she says.
This time, Sayles is determined to bring the chart with them. “I thought about removing the doorway,” she says, but her husband has different ideas. “He thinks we should take pictures of it and re-create it in our new house. But we’re both torn, because I feel like it’s transporting 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 alongside 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 that they may have to paint over or leave behind a piece of their kids’ past. Some, though, don’t like either of those options, so they have devised ways to preserve the charts.
When Edie and Rick Roth were preparing to sell their home in Mamaroneck, N.Y., in 2021, their adult children were concerned that three pieces of masking tape, affixed to a door and used to mark their heights, wouldn’t make the move. Rick says that they hadn’t really thought about it — or thought that it would be meaningful — but after the kids mentioned it, he set to work scraping off the tape. He transferred the strips to a piece of plexiglass, and the markings now reside in their new basement, nestled between a workshop and a wine cellar.
Sometimes it’s a home’s new owner who views a chart sentimentally.
Kathy Lang recently bought a house in Bend, Ore., and realized during the inspection that the previous owners were leaving behind a growth chart in the pantry. She wants to preserve it for the sellers, so instead of painting over it, she plans to have “the drywall removed 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 offering ideas of how to preserve existing charts, she suggests crafting a portable fabric chart that you can fold 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,” Mak says.
But if you’ve already marked heights on walls, how can you preserve them?
The simplest option is to photograph the chart and frame it. That allows for preservation of the markings and permits resizing for smaller spaces. That’s what Carolyn Judge, a ceramist who lives in Bronxville, N.Y., did in 2021 when she moved from Ridgefield, Conn. Depending on how precise you want to be, Mak says that you can mark off 10-inch sections to photograph, “so you know it’s to scale if you print an 8-by-10-inch picture.” The photos can be framed individually and stacked on the wall, or combined into one long frame. Or they can be transferred onto a wooden board and hung, or applied to a new door frame.
Photos also can be converted to iron-on transfers, Mak says, 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 itself, you can trace the markings (and any handwritten scribbling) on contact paper with a permanent marker, then transfer them to a new location or turn them into a free-standing chart.
Judge suggests buying carbon transfer paper to trace over the charts. Once you’ve traced them, she says, you can take a roll of plain white newsprint, tape it over the paper and make a rubbing to transfer the image. The result will be a mirror image, so to produce a replica, repeat the process using the rubbing as the original.
Or you can follow Mak’s example and go with something movable from the start. You could create your own chart, or, for those who are less handy, Lee Valley sells the blank Story Tape, a tape measure that can be used to record children’s growth. There are also portable charts available online from a number of sites.
Rick Roth’s daughter, Jennifer Prussin, has gone 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. “I also didn’t know how long we would be living in our house, so I wanted to make sure we could take whatever we were using with us.”
Ellen Rosen is a freelance writer in Larchmont, N.Y.