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Boomer's Journal - Reaching new heights on the broom closet door

By Rachel Barduson of Alexandria

We had a closet in the kitchen that was always referred to as “the broom closet.” I’m not sure if the blueprint or the floor plan specified “broom closet.” But that’s what we called it.

I don’t recall that there was ever a broom in it. Perhaps when the house was built in 1951, the intent was to keep brooms and mops and things in it. Maybe it was a new-fangled kind of thing for new houses built during the post-World War II era building boom. Every new home must have one... a “broom closet.” In the kitchen, of course.

Our broom closet was used for things that were not brooms or mops. No need for a broom closet when the place that made the most sense for a broom was on the back door porch during the spring, summer and fall; and behind the door in the utility room during the winter – right next to the back door porch of course. The same broom was used for the porch and the kitchen floor.

My niece, Lindsey (Anderson) Morrison getting measured again in 2023. Contributed photo

I recall when mother got a new canister vacuum cleaner that, at first, fit in the broom closet. Until it didn’t. Once the vacuum cleaner was taken out of the box and all the attachments and the hose were spewed about, well, that was the end of storing it compactly. It became burdensome to try to fit all of the parts into the too narrow and too small closet.

Dad kept his “strong box” on the high shelf in the broom closet. It held important bank papers and I suppose legal documents because the box was fireproof. The key that was needed to open the strong box was hanging on a nail (we all knew it was hidden up high on the inside wall of the broom closet) and out of the reach of children, unless we stood on the kitchen stool to get at it. I for one was curious as to what could possibly be held in the strong box since you needed a key to unlock it. I for one had to find out what was in it.

The doorknob of the broom closet was what came in handy to extract teeth. Or at least one tooth to be exact. That tooth belonged to my sister, Louise. One end of the string tied to her loose tooth, the other end of the string tied to the door knob. Standing in the kitchen I witnessed the closing of that door and seeing a tooth fly out. I looked on in horror as the tooth dangled on the end of the string that was tied to the broom closet door knob in the kitchen.

With all of that said, the most important part of the entire broom closet was what was measured on the door. For approximately 60-some years the door has served as a tablet to record the height of kids, descendants of my mom and dad. Name or initials and the date of measurement were recorded as each child reached a new height.

Dad began the saga of “the broom closet door” when his youngest daughter (me) began a growth spurt going into the sixth grade. As I grew dad created this method of measuring my height and writing in pencil, my initials and the date. I’m glad he had the foresight to record the history and I am glad it became a tradition for future generations to continue. The door is now a visual time capsule of names,  initials and dates. Even though mom and dad have been gone for 30-plus years, their heirs continue to be measured on the door. In fact, when we get together at my house, one of the first things that I say is, “Don’t forget to get measured!” During the long good-byes, the last thing that is said before departure is, “Have you been measured yet?”

It definitely has become “a thing.”

Measuring grandson Gabriel in 2014. Contributed photo

More than 50 years ago, as my folk’s grandchildren began to arrive, each grandchild would be measured almost as soon as they could stand alone. I guess we really did start to notice that a lot of history was beginning to get packed onto that narrow broom closet door. It was telling a story much bigger than we had imagined, or at least, we were making this small door a pretty big deal. You definitely want your name on that door.

When it came time to leave the farm it was evident that the door had to come with us. We had to preserve the history. The door is currently in my keeping. It’s a piece of history that will definitely be passed along to one of mom and dad’s grandchildren, until that person hands it down to the next generation.

The story on the door is simple. And isn’t that what history, recording history, is all about? My mom and dad’s grandchildren are now having children of their own...and those grandchildren are starting to have children of their own. We are on the third generation with this door while the fourth is getting its start. It’s getting crowded with initials and dates but there’s always room for more. As I measure one grandson, I compare his height to where his mom was at the same age; or to his uncle’s height at the same age. And so on. And so on.

Above, Gabriel being again measured in 2023. Contributed photo

Just like 50 years ago, the newest generation of kids wait patiently for their turn to stand very still and very tall as the ruler is placed flat against the top of their head and the pencil “marks the spot” indicating their height. They giggle with glee as they see their name written on the door. With that, their very own history has been etched onto the family tablet with a sharpened pencil or an old ink pen.

Except for brooms, lots of different things were stored inside the broom closet in the kitchen. Luckily, outside of the closet, on the old wooden door – tradition has prevailed and what has been written in pencil and pen has persevered. We can’t deny it; grandpa really started something with the writing on our broom closet door.

A simple old wooden door has become an heirloom of sorts and will always be a work in progress. Who knew that something so simple could become such a big deal?

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