My grandmother used to have a stool in her kitchen, a little rickety, three-stepped thing meant to help her reach the shelves.
For me, though, it was a throne. "Keep me company", she would say, "Sit right here." And there I sat, regaling my grandma with three-year-old wisdom. She'd laugh as she baked and cooked; I was her entertainment. And her pre-dish-washing batter licker.
She added her own stories, too, of life in Europe before the war, of her brothers and sisters, her friends and aunts and neighbors, who all perished and vaporized. She'd talk about it like it was no big deal that her world vanished when she was 18. She'd make silly jokes and sing songs she must have heard straight off the boat in the late 40s - - how she'd had the head to learn them, I don't know.
But the doggy in the window and the cake I'd bake if I'd known you were coming accompanied me in that fragrant kitchen as I sat on my stool and ate oatmeal cookies and licked chocolate batter and drank malted shakes meant to fatten me up.
All on that little wooden stool.
I remember that we'd measure my growth by which step my feet reached when I sat on the top level of that stool. When I was five, I got to the middle step with my little sandal-clad toes. The day my feet reached the ground was momentous. I was about nine years old, nearly a woman.
I still can't think of a better way to measure growth.