Maybe it was Allergies

When Joe and I bought water service that reflects the fact that we live in the 21st century, the attempt to join our new plumbing to the city plumbing didn’t go well.  The water to a few of our neighbours was shut off for a day and the street outside was full of huge emergency trucks shining bright lights and working into the night. When they were done, they’d made a hole in the sidewalk and patched it with asphalt.  Over the course of the winter that patch had heaved and part of it quit, creating a crazy sinkhole out front. 

Joe and I called the city right away and put an orange safety cone on it so that nobody would get hurt.  I started to worry that day. I admit, that me being me, I mostly worried about water running into the (small) sinkhole and the washing away the ground underneath the rest of the sidewalk.  (I admit also, that me being me, I worried that a really big rain might wash out the support for our house. I think it’s impossible, but I’m a creative person and that doesn’t always help me.)  I also started to worry about the sidewalk itself.

Years and years ago, when the girls were little, the city put new sidewalk out front. I can’t remember where Amanda was, but Megan and Sam got permission from Joe (who’s a complete renegade) to write in the wet cement. (I was afraid they would get in trouble. Is that graffiti? Is it against the law? I didn’t know.) They went outside and squatted on the edge of the step with sticks, and they each wrote something.  Sam put her name and a star (we had a talk after that about the wisdom of vandalizing something with one’s own name.)

Megan, little, idealistic and being raised by hopelessly optimistic hippies, wrote "You are beautiful" because she thought that would make everyone in the family feel good, as they stepped onto the sidewalk to begin their days.

Despite initially being opposed (although the police never said anything about the crime) it turns out that I love those little bits of urban art. Now, way more than a decade later, I love to see those little messages when I leave the house, and I smile to myself when I see guests to our home spot them as they come and go.  They’ve become important to me, like the marks on the doorframe that I paint around semi-annually – the ones showing the girl’s heights compared to mine.  When the sinkhole happened, I knew that they were going to replace part of the sidewalk, but I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know how much. I hoped the sidewalk could be saved, because I liked it. 

Two mornings ago, I woke up because there was a ridiculous racket outside.  Jackhammering, I realized, and I chalked it up to the ongoing renovation next door and rolled over.  Three minutes later I was staggering out of bed, pulling clothes on as I went – running my fingers through my hair and grabbing the camera.  Two minutes after that, I was the crazy lady bursting onto the porch, hair wild, braless in yoga pants and an old tee-shirt with soup on it,  screaming "STOP!"

The guy in the little jackhammer cart thingie stopped, a look on his face of pure astonishment. He can’t have heard me, what with the ear protection and the jackhammering, but he sure saw me, and he stopped right there.  I pointed at the square of sidewalk right there in front of the step. It wasn’t broken up yet, but I could tell it would be. He’d started on an area that made it clear it was going to go.  "I… need to take some pictures." I said, and then, for reasons that I don’t understand at all, because I am a tough person, and I was totally reconciled to the eventual loss of the sidewalk, and also  I don’t cry in public if I can possibly help it – some horrible hitch of a sob came out of me, and I started to cry while I got the broom, and swept the leaves off of the words.

Do you have any idea how many memento’s I have of my children’s youth? I have pictures, and baby clothes, and knitted things. I have books, and I have art, and I have toilet paper rolls covered in macaroni and spray painted gold that I can hang on my Christmas tree. I have old report cards, letters, and badges.  I have it all, and I was really in no danger of forgetting anyway, and I am not the sort of mother who really regrets that those years are over anyway.  I loved it when they were little, I really did. I was good at it and I worked hard at it, and those were wonderful, wonderful years (if somewhat sleep-deprived, loud and sticky.) It was fulfilling and important work, taking care of my girls, but I am proud and happy that they are mostly grown now,  and I value this time as much as that.
I am never going to be the sort of mum who weeps in her empty nest.  I’ve been waiting for it to empty out for a while, and with all of that together, I couldn’t believe that there I was, crying on the porch, taking pictures of words in the cement, and considering how I could strike a bargain to keep it. 

The guy got out of the little jackhammer cart, and he came over to the step.  He looked down where I was sweeping.  I pointed.  He was a young guy.  If he has kids they must be very little, and he looked down to the ground and saw what was there.  After a minute, he looked away, and went back to the equipment, and waited patiently, and he said nothing while I took some pictures. When I was done, I said thank you to him, and I turned to go into the house.  "Sorry lady" he said.  I smiled.  It had nothing to do with him.

I have a new sidewalk now. I sat in the house and I listened to him smash it up, and then a truck came, and took away all the pieces, and later in the afternoon they poured new concrete, and now the sinkhole is gone and nobody can get hurt and the house won’t fall down.  It’s all good. My kids are grown up, and I like who they are, and I am glad that the time they were little is over, and I have a lot to remember that time by. 

I know that the world is the sort of place where you can’t get attached to a sidewalk you don’t own, and I know too that nothing is really different today, now that our old sidewalk is gone, there’s no risk that I’ll forget that day that two of them squatted on the step, sticks in their hands, writing in wet concrete, wondering if they were breaking the law while I fretted and Joe told them to dare.  I won’t forget all the times I shovelled that sidewalk and saw the words there, and really, I’m pretty sure I’ll think of them every time I see the new sidewalk anyway.  I won’t forget, and it doesn’t really, really matter, and I have no idea then, why I was that crazy lady on the porch, sweeping leaves away from words, and crying on old concrete.  

219 thoughts on “Maybe it was Allergies

  1. I would have insisted that those spots be taken out with great care, and then I would have hoarded them like they were pieces of the Berlin Wall. And had them made into side tables.
    My kids are still very young — 5 1/2, 2 1/2, and 6 mos — and I simply cannot imagine the day when they will be grown, despite the current stickiness of my life.

  2. You are that crazy lady crying on the porch because you are human. You love and are loved in return and the sidewalk was a daily reminder of that love. It publicly shouted to the world that those two little girls wanted to make their mark on the world and be remembered for eternity, only a sinkhole got in their way. I LOVE Megan’s mark; Sam’s is totally in character for a younger child. Thank you for sharing this. The loss of the sidewalk is sort of like a death of a part of your shared history. Have a cry and hold the memory.

  3. Oh, I’m crying now, too. As another one of those moms who loved when he was small, but is glad he is no longer small, I have plenty of momentos as well, but there are some that tug at your heartstrings more than others. We’ll all cry a bit together here at the blog, I think. 🙂

  4. Because it is part of your life that you can’t get back; and you would be less than human if you didn’t take a moment to mourn that. I don’t know of a more human, involved, terrific mom and human being. So feel good about that, not embarrassed. Good for you; and well done.

  5. Oh it’s lovely! Even if I wasn’t their mum, seeing those darling little messages would make me happy and make me very sad when they are gone.
    It makes total sense to me.

  6. I cried with you. My daughter is the same age as your youngest I think, and shares a birthday with someone…or maybe it’s just me and Joe who share birthdays, I forget. Happy Birthday, Joe!
    Anyway…I would have been right there with you. My baby moved to Portland, Oregon last Dec. She came home for the first time last week and it was awesome and amazing and wonderful and we cried so hard it practically bruised us when she got back on the plane to go ‘home’ again. I loved my baby,I loved my girl…I love my growing-up woman, too. They are all my baby, and always will be.

  7. We bought our house from a lady who had to sell because of a divorce. She had 3 grown kids who lived with her. We were trimming back some bushes after we moved in and found that her kids had put their hand prints and names in the cement on the walkway under the bushes. It was sort of sad because the nice lady probably never thought she’d have to sell her house.

  8. That’s a beautiful post! When we moved after 30 years in one house I remember with sadness when I looked at the driveway where my girls had written their names in the concrete too.

  9. The Internet sure is making me cry today. First a ridiculous collection of autocorrect mishaps posted on Facebook drove me to hilarious squeaking crying laughter. Then your beautiful post finished me off; sitting here with tears running down my face and wanting to hug my tall beautiful smart daughter and remember her as the tiny sweet darling of years past… Loving every moment of being her mom.

  10. I need to remember that I should NOT be checking the blog at work…how am I suppose to explain why I’m crying?!?
    So beautiful, Stephanie.

  11. Me I’d have called up the girls and told them there was an emergency and they had to come home right away. Then I’d have handed them a stick and told them to have at it. I especially loved Megan’s.
    Lovely lovely post.

  12. My parents built a house in 1978 and are still living there today. When the driveway was poured, I put my hand print, name, and date in the cement. I’m now forty and enjoy showing my 7 year old the memory when I go home to visit. 🙂

  13. I am with Claire. I would have called the girls and made them come over and put NEW messages in the concrete….AND, saved the old concrete. I like that idea of using it for a coffee table top! Brilliant!

  14. Oh man I obviously need to dust in here. Because *reasons*. Where did I leave that box of tissues?
    Speaking as someone who has very little left from when she was wee, this was gorgeous.

  15. At the point from where I stand (mid-forties with a toddler)
    I understand completely why one would be sentimental about a sidewalk. Thank goodness for digital cameras!

  16. Holy Cow I’m crying now just after reading this!! Thank you Stephanie for coming into my life. I am a Very Late Bloomer Mom with a 10 year old boy; between this post and the Mean Mommy post I’m pretty sure I can get through almost anything that happens with him; you give me perspective, wisdom, laughter and tears (sometimes all at once). Plus you inspire my knitting – what else is there? Please come have tea in Wyoming. Thank you.

  17. I understood every word of your post, Stephanie. In 1977 our two kids, 5 and 7 then, scratched their initials and the date in a newly-poured patio slab. When we moved to NM in 1998, I took a picture of the slab so I could remember that day and the kids autographing the new concrete – mostly, they were amazed that I let them put their initials in! This was the olden days when we used film in cameras, and something happened to the print and I don’t have it. Why I think of those initials as often as I do, I don’t know; and 15 years later I still miss having that photo.

  18. This was post was sort of NSFW:tearjerker.
    Are you going to get prints made of the sidewalk pictures and frame them and put them inside the doorway to your house, so you can still see them on your way out into the world each day?

  19. Really Stephanie? Did I need to cry today? You are so ridiculously talented, you had me at “Years and years ago”. 🙂 I am glad you got the pictures.

  20. Thanks for sharing this. I’m crying, and feeling that bittersweet sensation in my chest that tells me I need to hug my kid when he comes in. He’s 27, almost a foot taller than I am, and has a big bushy beard, but for just a moment he’ll be 6 years old and holding dandelions in his grubby hands.

  21. Crying! doesn’t matter how old they get, they will always be the same little person angelic in their pyjamas saying I love you mummy so I completely understand the crying at the concrete

  22. Every parent understands. On HGTV, they have had a show called “If Walls Could Talk”…and most of us can relate with leaving behind a momento.

  23. I relate to writing your name in vandalism. I have one daughter who always wrote her name on her scribbles on the walls. And one who cleverly decided to throw me off the scent by writing her not-yet-able-to- write baby sister’s name!

  24. I love the fact that so many of the commenters cried over this. It makes me feel better about my own drippy self! We don’t have messages in a sidewalk but we do have a height wall that will never get painted over. One of the delights of that wall is that many of the kids friends and some significant others have put their height up there as well. It really is a milestone to their lives and I love it!

  25. It’s all about love, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing with us. Your blog doesn’t take us back quite that far ~ nice to have a piece of those little girls before we knew them. [and, yes, it does feel as though we know them]

  26. This made me cry. We poured a small section of concrete for our trash cans, and our then-seven year old son wrote his name and the date. We’ll inevitably sell this house, and leave that behind to the whims of the new owners. I’ll probably cry then, too.

  27. I’m crying and I don’t even have kids! hah
    *hugs* Maybe you can get photos printed of the words and put them with a picture of when they were younger and now? Then set them in a prominent place, where you see them regularly, just like the sidewalk. It won’t replace the original, but it might work the same charm.
    Katie =^..^=

  28. I cried with you too. There are moments that I would relive infinitely if it were possible. The mementos of those times, even chucks of concrete, are precious.

  29. Totally cried with you. My house has a concrete walk all around it and at one spot there are some initials joined with an +. I don’t even know whose they are but they were there when I bought the house. I smile when I look at them thinking they were probably newlyweds who are probably now long gone (its an old house). They loved this house once when it was new and I love them for reminding me that my old house was once someone’s brand new, sparkly dream home, not the fixer-upper it is now.

  30. This post really got to me. Earlier this week, my next door neighbours had their tree cut down. It was obviously diseased, and it was the right thing to do. But I was sad to see it go. My husband and I moved in to our home shortly after it was built. I watched that tree being planted 22 years ago and I will miss it now that it is gone.

  31. Beautifully written post today, made me tear up. My dad was in the military so I have no permanent mementos like that, though as an only child I have many, many photo albums. My mother in law grew up in the house I live in now, and I am constantly finding little surprises of her childhood. Like the poem she wrote on the wall of my laundry room (which we have since painted). Should we ever re do concrete you better believe I’ll be writing something in it, thanks for the inspiration

  32. That made me weepy. Of course everything makes me weepy this year, because my youngest is a senior in high school and we’re having all the last this and that’s, and an empty nest in 10 months. Plus I can be really sentimental.

  33. Stephanie, I have a sense of why you were the crazy lady crying over an old sidewalk. I’m a few years older, but our kids are about the same age (except my fourth and youngest). My kids are amazing young adults, and they are going off and doing wonderful things with their lives. I can’t really explain why I was so torn up over my son (24) going off to boot camp. Really now, he’s married and has his own life. And my daughter (21) is considering a job several states away. When she leaves it will tear my heart out—and yet I so want to encourage her independence as she pursues her dreams. I’ve been an at-home mom all these years, so it’s probably something of a feeling of all that coming to an end—and yet, it really isn’t an end at all. And like you said, the young years were good—and these years are different, but very good too. And all the memories are precious.

  34. My 6 year old sneaker prints and our schnauzer’s footprints are in our front walk in the suburbs of Boston. I never go look at the house, because I’m sure they’ll do something that will wipe away all the history and memory of my childhood.
    I’m so sorry you didn’t get to keep the bits, but I think it’s wonderful that Joe took the girls to do it all those years ago.

  35. Exactly. Who knows why you were crying over old concrete. Who? All of us… !
    So glad you were able to take some photos.
    Wonderful post.

  36. Here I am, weepy at my desk again. Oh well. I totally get it – my baby is a freshman in high school and so many things make me miss her being little(er). Sweet memories…

  37. I don’t tear up over sad movies or tv shows, but that picture of Sam’s name, split of from the rest of the sidewalk just caught me in the heart. This is how it is–we raise our children, and then life demands that they break away and go off on their own. That is so human, and so sad. And so good.

  38. aaaawwwwwwww! Lived in this house 44 yrs, 2 girls are gone – just hubby and me. But, still have the girl’s names on a slab of cement in basement where the freezer stood. Guess it’ll always be there as long as we are………..

  39. My basement has a little tiny foot print made in 1942 by a neighbor (now in his 70’s) who grew up our house. I smile everytime I look at it. What a shame your sidewalk had to go. No wonder you cried. By the way, I reread your post about the original water project. That tiny room in your house with a large window and nice plaster would have been the sewing room. Sewing rooms with small with big windows for good light. They allowed the seamstress to leave out works in progress and be able to keep them shut off from the kids. Sewing rooms were usually nicely decorated because the woman of the house used them as a retreat and if she could afford to hire in someone to do the sewing, it was much easier to attract someone to do the job if provided with an attractive place to work.

  40. What a tear jerker!
    Although I do not have children I totally get why you did what you did. It so touched a place in my heart.
    My Grandfather had his grandchildren write our names in concrete on both of his properties.
    When my sister and her husband did work in the backyard they had their 3 children write their names in the new concrete. When the 4th child was born, my brother in law (who does concrete work for a living) made a little spot for her to write her name when was she was old enough to hold a stick.
    They moved 2 years ago and only recently sold the old home. My brother in law asked the new owners if he could remove the slab with the names and replace the concrete and thankfully the new owners agreed.
    So taking picture is not crazy at all.

  41. Well if you don’t know why you are crying I surely don’t know why I am. They aren’t even my kids. Maybe it’s that seeing reminders of when our now grown children were little reminds us of our mortality. I know my son and daughter are grown and I’m OK with that and with who they are. BUT that means I am 20 years older and that’s what I have an issue with.
    By the way when my son was 6 he signed his name – with a stick – on the front of the car. We had that chat about signing your crimes

  42. Oh, Steph! It’s hard (for a mom) letting go of those things, it really is. And you don’t know it yet, but an empty nest really, really sucks, for awhile. Maybe the dude could have dug up the square and moved it to somewhere in your yard where you could have used it as a stepping stone. Yeah, he shoulda thought of that!!

  43. My footprints and those of my sister are on a driveway of a home that our family owned and loved for 60+ years. The link is now gone, broken by time and deaths. My tears are appropriate, but it’s now time to knit and spin and sing.

  44. Perhaps because in remembering the girls they once were you can see the foreshadowing of the lovely ladies they have become? I’d totally have been out there in pyjamas taking pictures too!

  45. You just hit me right in the feels. This is such a sweet post, and as much as I love all your fibery insanity, the ones like this are my favorites. Please don’t ever stop writing.

  46. Well…I’m not the kind of woman that sits at her computer and cries over blog posts. Yet here I am, weeping over you weeping over your concrete. What a beautiful post about a beautiful family.

  47. Stephanie, this story is one of the (many) reasons some of us follow your blog. You write beautifully about these mini-events we’ve all experienced but can’t express nearly as well. After all, it’s these little things that add so much to the layers of our lives. 🙂

  48. There’s nothing wrong with a little sentimentality. Clearly, I’m not the only one moved by your story. But as an offering of comfort might I suggest that we all tend to be slightly more emotional when awakened with a start into action. Just goes to show that you’re a lovely creative human. Thanks for sharing.

  49. Ah, you are so good at making me teary and maybe, it does matter, even just a little. It’s okay that you were the crazy lady. Honestly. And it’s also okay that it matters. Your big heart makes you who you are.

  50. I know why – it’s because you’re a mother to three beautiful girls, just as I am. You cherish those memories of times gone by. My last is about to leave the nest, and even though I know that it’s time, I wish someone had told me that 18 years with each of them would go by in an instant. Oh, how I wish it could have been longer.

  51. At least, you are the crazy lady mother of this story. Why was the crazy lady sitting at her computer with tears streaming for the loss of a crazy lady and her daughters’ sidewalk? Hugs to a great mom and some great kids.

  52. Hi Steph – This was a lovely post. I agree with all the other posts. . . Definitely a sweet memento from their younger days. I’m on the other side of this – waiting and waiting and hoping to have kids sooner rather than later – but I can totally imagine I’d be out there doing the same thing. xo

  53. Everything I wanted to say has been said above. But I want to give you a huge hug because you are who you are, a mum who loves her girls. (((((Stephanie)))))

  54. If that jackhammer guy had children, he would have taken the parts that had the girl’s writing and given them to you. least, if I were the jackhammer guy, that is what I would have done…
    You are not a crazy lady. You are a mom who loved being a mom and has not forgotten how to be a mom.
    I totally understand…..I have two grown sons one of whom is now at home after a terrible divorce. I would have done the same.

  55. Hi Steph – This was a lovely post. I agree with all the other posts. . . Definitely a sweet memento from their younger days. I’m on the other side of this – waiting and waiting and hoping to have kids sooner rather than later – but I can totally imagine I’d be out there doing the same thing. xo

  56. Because those are odd bits of real life that speak to who you were, and who you are, and all the days and moods and steps in between. I’d have cried, too.

  57. Because you are a mother who loves her children through all their ages and stages. You love the adults they are or are becoming, and you love remembering the little children they once were.

  58. Please pretty please write a parenting book? I’ll knit hankies on bicycle spokes so I can read it without using too many paper products.
    I recently lost my father and I’m feeling the need to squeeze my kids endlessly to keep them from growing up.

  59. We DID cut out the slab with our four children’s handprints and names, and put it in our garden. It is one of my fav things, peeking out from the greenery, along with all the crockery and sculpture from their many ceramics classes. Thank you for the affirmation that wanton sentimentality is my right as a mother of grown children.
    You paint door frames semiannually? You mean biennially? Semi-century? Very impressed.

  60. I am in the midst of that loud, sticky and oh so wonderful work. I hope I feel like you some day. Right now I can’t imagine the day her every moment isn’t measured by mine, as hard as I’m working to make sure she’s ready for the first of those steps as they speed toward us.

  61. We would have been surprised if you hadn’t been the crazy lady who… ditto on just about everything everyone said. Love the idea of framing the photos. Please let us know if by chance you did get the pieces and forgot to tell us. I don’t have any kids so have no kid similar stories, mine of the paw print in the grout of my tiled from from the best kitty ever!! I never thought about when I leave this house, which I will do someday when I retire. sigh…

  62. My mother was a remarkable woman in many ways – but I still remember with great fondness the day she came home from work in great excitement. She and a friend at work had written their initials in the side of newly poured concrete steps at the Board of Education office. She had always wanted to write in the fresh concrete – and finally had and in such a wonderful place! She was so happy, a bit cocky, a bit guilty, and loving every minute of it. So unlike her in many ways, but what a lovely moment of rebellion. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

  63. Thirty five years ago I purchased a live three foot Austrian pine tree for our family Christmas tree and when the holiday was over I planted it in my front yard. Over the years I used it as a backdrop for numerous photos of family and friends, yelled at my kids for picking off the new growth, my grand kids climbed in it, I hung a birdhouse in it that was used every spring, I fed the neighborhood birds from the feeders hung on its limbs, I hacked off the limbs that fell in the snow, and I swept and raked up after it as it dropped tons and tons of needles and cones all over the place. On Monday I am having my twenty five foot+ pine tree cut down because it is raising my neighbor’s driveway and it has grossly outgrown its home. I expect to be the crying and wild haired lady with the camera watching the destruction of a living wealth of memories. I feel your pain.

  64. This is beautifully said, and I hope your editor reads it and convinces you to write a book not just about knitting but about life (and knitting). Because the world needs it.
    I am an editor myself, so I feel like it’s not too far-fetched.

  65. My kids are very young–a 3 year old girl and a 7 month old baby–and after a long day when I was just counting the minutes until bedtime, this made me cry in a blubbery sort of way.
    I love that you love all the phases of their and your lives. I can’t tell you how many older moms and grandmothers have told me, “Enjoy them while they’re young. It goes so fast and then they’re teenagers and you’ll wish you had babies again.” I hate to think that the best part of life is the first year when you’re too little to remember it anyway. Surely all of life is a gift.
    I also love that you let them tear it all up. My husband (who thought I said, “Blockbuster is making me cry,” when I really said “blog post”) thought that you should have tried to save the little concrete patches. “But then what would she do with them?” I said. “You’d have to find somewhere to put them, and they’d get ugly, and you’d never be able to throw them out, and you’d be beholden to them, and then they’d cease to be special moments frozen in time and instead they’d be ghosts, haunting you and weighing you down.” Concrete becomes ghosts. Pictures and words are the eternal things, the saints that will keep you thankful for the present and the future.
    Thank you for sharing.

  66. I’m crying, not because I have children who are growing up, but because I’m one of those kids who are soon leaving their parents for the big wide world. What a touching post, God bless you.

  67. You should have asked if you could save those pieces, maybe for use as paving stones in the back yard. The workman might even have helped you move them. After all, what was the city going to do with them? Use them as landfill, or grind them up for use as a road bed?
    And, yes, you should have called the girls, and Hank, and Lou so each could mark the new pavement. Lou could have put his handprint in, just like movie stars have done at Mann’s Chinese Theater in L.A. (And with that smile of his, who knows? He might grow up to be one!)

  68. It’s the little pieces of love that become most fully embedded in our lives. I’m so glad, for you and for us your readers, that you were able to take those pictures and share them with us.

  69. your story makes me thing of two things i say to myself when i face a tough moment and need to buck up:
    “it was supposed to last forever, but nothing lasts that long.”
    “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

  70. Aagh, I was fine until I saw the little broken piece of ‘Sam’ – sob. My daughter recently said ‘I bet my mom even has the pin they took out of my broken arm.’ I just told her don’t judge me until you have children of your own:) I’m fusing it in glass for her for Christmas :):):)

  71. I try to read your blog while on lunchbreak. Lots of times I chortle. Today I cried (what a lovely touching story!) and then I laughed out loud (link to house pipe story). My boss always looks at me like I’m crazy.
    I wish they had figured out a way to carve those out nicely for you.

  72. I have had a frustrating day and have wanted to shed a tear or 2 because of that but I’m an adult and I sucked it up. It was lovely to read this and shed a bittersweet tear.
    All those lovely mementos of the girls childhood are wonderful but the sidewalk was special because it was an everyday memory not a special occasion/holiday memory. You never know what small occurrence will be a cherished memory.

  73. What a lovely beautiful post – I love reading your perspective. And, your daughters had terrific hand-writing at their young ages.

  74. I have tears in my eyes. While I was reading your post, I was reminded about this morning when I carefully stored away my 5-year old’s craft activity from school. I wish I feel the same way you do when my son grows up to be an adult.

  75. I understand completely and would have done the same thing. I know change is normal, natural, and inevitable but I still don’t always have to like it. It’s funny the things that you get attached to without even realizing it. I know it’s not the same but maybe you can replace a section of the sidewalk leading up to your house that you do own and have the kids sign something on it. You know, there’s always paint….

  76. I’m tearing up, and hello! I’m at work — can’t have folks coming back here to see me getting weepy over some other Mom’s sentiment. Though it is a lovely sentiment, very touching, especially since the Blog readers know & love those girls. Hugs to all of them, & to daring Joe too.

  77. I would have had him jackhammer around them & put the pieces in the garden. Oh & I would take them with me to EVRY house I ever moved to again. Even overseas.
    Happy sad Mum stuff. We get it.

  78. you were not a crazy lady standing on a porch sweeping leaves and taking pictures. You were a Mom. I too believe I like the way things are as much as I loved the way things were. but time passes and we all miss what was. Children being little is what we are supposed to enjoy so we can help them grow and become happy healthy productive adults. You’ve done that and done it well. so you mind was just being a Mom!
    and DANG it, now I’m crying!! LOL

  79. am I ever glad I am not the only sentimental one in the world. I have stuff in the basement in bags from the kids’ school days, macaroni and all. The macaroni no longer sticks to the pictures but they are in the bottom of the bag and I just can’t throw it out. I just can’t! So there it sits. The kids can deal with it when I die and they have to clean out the house, because I just can’t.
    Oh I am crying too…Yikes! I salute all the sentimental moms out there. We have a club of our own and we found our leader.

  80. Not crazy at all.
    When my grandparents built their new house on the farm, all the grandkids wrote their names and put footprints and handprints in the cement walkway to the drive. Thirty years later, my aunt renovated the house and the sidewalk was replaced. I wish I had a picture of it — six sets of tiny hands and feet, wobbly names and history.
    Excuse me while I cry into my yogurt for a while.

  81. Yep, tears over here, too… And mine are both still little but seem to be growing at an alarming rate. Give Joe a hug of thanks for daring.

  82. I understand! I balled my eyes out the day the neighbors cut down their tree that used to shade my kids’ swing set. We used to play together in the shade of that huge, graceful willow and it being gone was just another reminder of times gone by that I will never experience again. Oh gosh! Get me a tissue! Here I go again!

  83. When I was a little girl, I found a pair scissors and scratched my name in a very nice wooden dresser in my parents’ bedroom. My name is long, and I was so excited I could write it! I was in first grade. Later my parents came asked me why I did it. “How did you know it was me?” I asked! They sanded it out, but you can still see it a little bit. The dresser is now in my parents’ garage. 🙂

  84. My daughter is 3 and I have another little one due in February. Driving to work today, for some reason, I was thinking of the lyrics from the musical, “Jekyll and Hyde” to the song, “Letting Go”. It is sung between a father and his daughter before she marries, and is about how difficult it is to say good-bye to the past even when you embrace the present and future. The thoughts almost brought me to tears (ok, my eyes did well up) while driving. And then I read this post and…well…I totally get it. And I will very likely be the mom running out the front door one day, yelling “Stop!” while also embracing the “Go!”

  85. At work, trying to hold it together so that my makeup doesn’t get ruined. My only daughter is 13 and well….I feel your pain. Sometimes love isn’t rational, is it? A very tangible symbol that your kids are growing up has just been lost and no matter how practical and pragmatic you are, it’s still heartrending. So glad you got your pictures.

  86. That is so sweet that you did that. I just hate sometimes when progress gets in the way of history of family. Glad you were able to get a picture of it. My last house they put in a new street and make it wider so they had to take out a hugh oak tree that 3 people couldn’t get their arms around. I was just sick over that and it hung over my driveway. Sad with progress for sure!! Enjoy your new sidewalk and make more memories!!!

  87. I woke up, read your post, and got a little weepy. It’s hard not to feel the loss of a concrete reminder of a special moment that has lived with you for so many years. The digital replacement is so one dimensional. I suspect you will rely on your mind’s eye much more than those pictures.
    We’ve moved a few times with my daughter, now 15. The pictures don’t replace the memory of the secret garden, or the dolphin porch swing, or the sledding hill. But they come to life when we talk about them over tea and cookies. Think I’ll bake some cookies today…

  88. Your story is a very nice momento and even more widely shared than the sidewalk ever was. But it’s true: the physical remnants of an event spark the memory, and sometimes, this is why we hold on to those remnants.

  89. I have hand prints of my grandchildren when they were small…. they mean the world to me and are on a movable slab so I can take them with me if I move. Love your story….

  90. I’m going to be brave and not be the crazy crying lady myself, but I relate to that very strongly. We moved a long way from the old house and the weird little face someone painted on a door-knob, after one of the children had gone to live the other side of the world. Grandchildren are an amazing phenomenon – they kind of top you up and move you on.
    Thank you, Stephanie.

  91. Hubby & I built our house and wallpapered all the rooms. Over the years the LR was looking a bit ratty. When we removed the old paper I found my dad, who was helping us put the paper up, had written the date and how many rolls it took on the last section. My Dad is no longer with us and I sat there with tears rolling down my eyes. It would not have been a problem if we were repapering, but we had made the decision to paint and the walls had to get sanded down. So out came the camera to capture that scrawled note from Dad 🙂 Thanks for helping me recall it now.

  92. Allergies – OK, I’m fine with that, but I can’t help worrying about that poor jackhammer guy, who probably thinks the children who wrote those things have passed away. I hope you made it clear to him that they are hale and hearty and sometimes come for dinner?

  93. Aww dang it…I really thought this was going to end with that nice young man jack hammering out the dear parts and leaving them on your front steps.

  94. Loved this–thanks for sharing! This and your posting on 7/19/12 “Clarity is Everything” I have printed out and saved to share whenever appropriate. You are a wonderful writer as well as knitter!

  95. Tissue paper flowers and painted pasta-shell pictures for Mother’s Day .. these are fragile. You’d think concrete could hold up!
    Dude with the machine is too young to get it, but I hope someday he does..

  96. I built my dream house in 1991, with nary a thought that I would one day be divorced and be forced to sell the house.
    The only time I cried was when the kitchen had to be painted in anticipation of the sale. The wall next to the refrigerator had been used for almost twenty years to mark the heigth of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and of a dear aunt who was in her 80’s. I tried to trace the markings, but it was impossible because one mark would blend with the next, but I was able to salvage the names and the dates on a long sheet of paper.
    As humans, we place sentimental value on the most amazing objects. Who knew that I would be blubbering over a strip of wall next to the refrigerator?

  97. This post just gave me the best therapeutic cry. My 15 month old has been up more or less since 4 am yesterday with a fever and refusing to eat or mostly drink/nurse and now an impressive rash. We’re heading to the doctor in 25 minutes to find out what kind of rash it is (and therefore how many days until I can rationally expect to sleep again). Your story about the wonderful family concrete had exactly the right emotional intensity for me right now.
    I’m glad you got the pictures, and I’m so glad you wrote about it. Thanks.

  98. When we bought our house, it came with the the handprints and initials of a previous family on one on the back porch steps. Found out later that it was the judge that married us, that he had owned the house when his kids were small. They probably are parents themselves now!

  99. What an wonderful story! I totally relate, but being ME, I would cried in front of the guy & asked if he could break it up so I could save that fragment, because it would never in a million years have occurred to me to take a picture. (But I a good bit older than you!)
    You are awesome, by the way! Heard you speak on a record-breaking snow day on top of Mt. Magazine, Arkansas, the first weekend this past May. You were ready to go home to warmer climes!
    Love your blog!

  100. And I’m crying over a stranger’s lost concrete.
    You are fortunate to have lived in the same house for so long. My eldest is 7 and he’s lived in four homes in three cities, in two provinces. I’m longing to put down roots, to have the chart of heights and ages fill up a space along a door frame. Soon I hope.

  101. My little brother ran into a freshly tarred street and left black toddler footprints on the sidewalk. After we moved, we went back to visit those footprints for years.

  102. These kinds of things are bittersweet, aren’t they? I’ve kept waaaay more memorabilia from my girls’ childhoods than I’ll need and than they’ll want, but still…
    This post reminded me of some special footprints in cement that are preserved in Hollywood. Many people are familiar with the ones in front of the famous Chinese theatre, but there are others. Charlie Chaplin’s “little tramp” walk was immortalized in concrete at his studio. The studio has changed hands and is now owned by The Jim Henson Company. The original footprints are still there. Because they understand the importance of those prints, there is a cast of them. If they’re ever lost in an earthquake or something, they’ll be able to replace them.
    I’m glad you took photos to preserve these important parts of your family’s history.

  103. *SNIFF* Now I’m crying too. You said exactly what I feel about my own children. They grow up so fast. On the upside I now have a new grandson to watch grow up. It’s wonderful being a Grandma. Someday may you know this joy too…

  104. For the same reason that I have been so lonely I could cry all night, just because all my girls are at sleep overs, and my husband is out of town. When everyone comes home tomorrow it will be loud and sticky and sleep deprived again, but right now I’m lonely.

  105. Memories are such wonderful things. My mother and I are currently preparing my grandmother’s (my mother’s mother’s) house for sale, as my grandmother passed away last Christmas. It’s the house that was built when my mother was 2 (more than 60 years ago – sorry Mom), so it has SO many for both of us.
    As we prepare it for sale, there is so much laughter and many more tears. This was a great read. Thank you.

  106. I just read your linked post about the water pipe and other craziness of your house.
    I have to comment. I am an American living in America, but I did live in the lovely hamlet of Whitevale Ontario. Our house must certainly have been built by the same team of drunken monkeys. In fact, the entire hamlet of Whitevale was most certainly built by drunken monkeys.
    I tell you so that if you ever need a shoulder on which to lay you weary head as you contemplate the insanity of the construction of your home, take a bottle of French Red Wine and stand in front of the old weaving shop on Whitevale Rd, and somebody will come out and throw an arm around your shoulder. And there will be stories from all around the village so prove you are not alond. Tell them I sent you.

  107. I had tears in my eyes when my 22 year old car was hauled off for auction to benefit a nonprofit organization. Tears for the loss of children’s marks in cement is certainly justified.

  108. In tears. Thank you, and to Joe for egging your little ones on.
    Mine were little and I was the renegade while my husband was rolling his eyes but the guy who’d just poured the concrete right in front of our house growled at me to get my kids the heck out of there, and he didn’t seem to be somebody to mess with. And he was around long enough that my kids only got to think of writing in his work. So very glad yours got to. What a beautiful post. To life!

  109. Hello Steph ! Don’t feel bad about crying. My dad built our childhood house and out front every door were hand made concrete slabs with all of our hand prints on them when my daughter was born and visits to Oma and Opa’s became a weekend tradition we took pictures of Hannah with her little tiny hands pressed into my hand prints. When my mom and dad sold the house to move closer to town the new owners said please leave the slabs this was your home and will always be a part of you. Shortly after the move my dad got a call from the new owners asking if he would help them make some more slabs 4 to be exact, they wanted to have slabs with their family’s hand prints to go along side the ones my dad had made. I’m crying right now thinking of you and the parallel that your girls as you said had written on concrete that wasn’t really theirs. A loss all the same. I believe anything your kin touches is some how embodied with a part of their soul so a detonate loss. A thought might be to make up some stepping stones with all your girls writing on them then they will be yours! Love and hugs! Kirsten

  110. Oh my. You hit a nerve. When we left our home in the desert, we left the back patio that we poured and decorated with our hands (mine, the mister’s, and the wee girlie’s). I had also pressed leaves into the wet concrete, much to the amusement of the great guys who did the hard work. I miss it. But like your girl’s art and love, it doesn’t go away.

  111. I’m not a “crier” either, but now I’m freaking bawling. Excuse me…. I have to go gaze at my (still small) children….. 🙂

  112. The door frame in my daughter’s room has their height measurements going back from the time they could stand by themselves. I told the painter we hired at least l0 times not to paint over the marks. He didn’t, but must have thought I had lost my mind. I’m not a crier, but I totally get it.

  113. I would have payed the young man a couple of bucks to gently pry out those little messages too…my sister, she would take the photos. The pics blown up and framed would make great conversational pieces.

  114. Love this! We recently had a town tree removed that my girls loved, so I share your sentiment. What a blessing that you were there to take photos! Thanks for sharing…

  115. These things make no sense to me (I won’t bore you with the details). But it makes a lot of sense to my children, especially my daughter. I have put a lot of effort into preserving things for the sake of those who care.

  116. Steph, it happens with memories of parents by their kids, too. About 28 years ago, my parents retired to the mountains of North Georgia. My father did all the woodwork in their new house, and he used wood-burning tools to decorate the fireplace mantel (hummingbirds, American eagle, dogwood blossom). Dad died in July 2010, and Mother sold the house in January of this year. I got photos as we were moving Mother–but they’re fuzzy cellphone photos. This year will be the first Thanksgiving in 28 years that we haven’t spent at that house, with that fireplace, that crowded table plus 2 card tables (15 of us for Thanksgiving dinner).

  117. I’m so glad you heard the jackhammering and went outside to look. Thank goodness the man had not reached the precious section of concrete. It was wonderful that you were there to take the photos. Happy memories!

  118. I don’t know why but I’m weeping in my oatmeal right now. Thanks for the reminder of what’s important in this world…memories

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  120. Brought tears to my eyes. My daughter spray painted a “smiley” face on one of the rocks behind the house when we first move here in 2000. She is 27 now has two children of her own but it still warms my heart to see that “smiley” face.

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    And maybe you have enough on your mind without my adding one more thing, but…..
    On your old post about Thrummed mittens, which I was reading with my 6 yr old by my side, and when we clicked on the first pattern link on that post, we encountered a porn site.
    I am sorry.

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