On being short

  • Friday, June 20, 2014



I wasn’t always vertically challenged.

In fact, by sixth grade I had shot up to 5’3”, taller than any other student – boy or girl – in class. My parents, I’m sure, feared they had spawned some aberrant female who would continue upward progress towards who knew what heights. As dad stood all of 5’6” and mom barely brushed five feet two, they probably looked upon me with some alarm.

Two years later they stopped worrying. In those days pupils graduated from eighth grade and then matriculated into high school. In that eighth grade rite-of-passage photo I am the shortest in the class.

I had lots of dates in high school. That’s really true. But that wasn’t because I was the cutest thing going. That was because I was short.

Blind dates were rife then, and I had lots of them. I’d get mom to answer the door bell, welcome the young man and invite him to have a seat while she “fetched” me. I sat on the edge of the bed staring at two pairs of shoe styles which were the alpha and omega of teen footwear in the 1950s. Mom would come in the bedroom chirping “Barbara your date is here.” Then she’d either give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I’d slide into the appropriate four-inch spike heels or the flat ballet slippers in front of me on the floor. (Those poor heels rarely got to go out on the town.)

I finally cottoned on to the prevalent pre-date negotiations. For instance, the opening salvo: “I’ve got this great friend. He’s good looking, a marvelous dancer and has his own car!” The question: “How tall is he?” The answer: “Five foot four.” Deal struck: “Get Barbara.”

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say those less-than-tall guys were some of the best dates I ever had. But I did long to need to strain my neck to look up into the eyes of my jitterbug partner. That finally happened with Jim.

For years I’ve known that about a fourth of the things I shop for are on the top shelf. If you see me standing in the middle of the grocery aisle, seemingly staring into upper space, I’m not having a senior moment, I’m waiting for some nice tall guy to come along and hand me the raisin bran.

A couple of years ago I had a physical and the nurse measured met at five feet. “Nonsense,” I protested. “Your equipment is faulty. I can’t possibly have lost three inches!”

Turns out I had. No wonder I was using a pillow while driving so I could see over, rather than peering through, the steering wheel.

Grandson Drew laid it on the line when he was about 12 and I cautioned him against growing so fast he would soon catch up to me. He told me drolly: “That, Grandma Barbara, won’t be much of an accomplishment!”

I’m really not complaining – much. If I were four feet tall and had the same wonderful life with warm family and friends at 12 inches shorter, I’d still consider myself blessed.

My physical therapist, Courtney Stearn, whose head also does not quite touch the clouds, recently shared a quote, which I’ll be using frequently from now on “God only lets things grow until they’re perfect. Some of us didn’t take as long as others!”

Amen.

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