A few weekends ago we had a toddler staying in our house, and it brought back a rush of memories: the years in which I walked in a permanent stoop as a tiny girl clung with her whole fist to my forefinger, careening from living room to dining room or up a set of mountainous stairs. The years when I had to lean down to kiss the top of a sweaty head, or pick up a daughter and place her on my hip so she could be at eye rather than knee level with visitors.
Those memories comfort me, now that I have a barefoot kid who looks directly into my eyes while pressing down on my shoulders with two hands and says, “Bwahahahahahaha, Dad, I’m taller than Mom now! I am! Come see!”
The truth is that I still have about an 1/8th of an inch on her, but that difference will probably be erased by the time I get to the end of this paragraph. I may as well say it: my 14 year old daughter is as tall as I am, and showing no signs of stopping.
I’m not short, either – 5’8” if you believe my driver’s license, by which I am also 5 pounds lighter so, you know, take it with a grain of salt. But I’m at least 5’7 ½”. Tall enough to be that woman in the grocery store who gets asked by old lady shoppers to reach for things, to be that wife who prides herself on never asking her husband to get down the pans stored on the topmost kitchen shelves, tall enough to order the Long version of clothes from catalogs. “On the tall side” is part of my identity.
And I always dated tall guys, with the exception of a German/American dude when I lived in Munich who got a pass because I didn’t have to explain idioms to him, which masked a LOT of his shortcomings. No surprise then that my husband still has three inches on me even when I wear my tallest heels. He comes from tall people.
I used to tease my late father-in-law B.T. about a family picture from the 1930s in which he is 16 years old, about to leave his family in Indonesia to move to Holland for college. (Bad timing: World War 2. Minority students put into German work camps. Story for another time.) At any rate there’s B.T., towering over his parents and siblings by a factor of two. I used to say, “B.T., they were probably happy you were getting ready to leave, so they could have some of the food you were hoovering up the whole time.” He always laughed. But never denied it.
So really, this having a child who is my height and still growing shouldn’t be a surprise. One might say I brought it upon myself. I just wish she wasn’t so darn gleeful about it. And soon there will be two: the younger daughter recently tried on a dress that fit her sister at the same age, and it was about two inches too short on her. Somewhere at a dim sum restaurant in Heaven, B.T. is cracking up.
But I do still have some small satisfaction. Because along with height comes another physical attribute: big feet. My gunboats aren’t small.
But I bet they’re going to be downright dainty compared to my kids.
Here’s a weird little tune that I always loved – Neil Finn singing “Sandy Allen,” an ode to the world’s tallest woman, who he once met on a talk show. (The first two lines that are cut off are “Hello Sandy Allen, the world’s tallest woman…) I love the little note of universal self doubt – “we made friends in New York, don’t know if you remember?” She was probably good at recognizing people by their scalps.