I have always been 5’4″ tall. Or short, depending how you look at it. I have never minded being short. I like looking up. And I don’t get rained on first. So, there are always perks. But, as I get older, I really think I am getting shorter. That thought, of course, took me back to my childhood and how my mom would back us up to the wall and score a pencil through our scalp. It was measuring time.
The walls in our kitchen were painted a pale pale yellow. That or they were white and were soot covered due to the smokestack that was my mother. In the kitchen was a door that led us to the basement. And right beside it, for everyone to view, was her growth chart.
Every once in a while, my mom would summon us to the kitchen. We had to kick off our shoes and put our heels to the wall and stand as still as a statue while she marked our new height. She would then put our name and the date on that line. I would usually get slapped to stand still. Hyperactive chihuahuas can’t stand still for very long. And besides, I didn’t understand why we had to do this. I was the oldest, so I should be the tallest. Cheryl was four years younger, so she should be the shortest. And who the hell cares that we are growing? Um, aren’t we supposed to grow? I just didn’t get it.
Oh, I realize that things like this matter to mothers. I know how much I weighed when I was born and how long I was. So what? Is that going to make me smarter than other babies? I mean, sure, if I weighed 8 ounces at birth, there would be a little concern. Duh. But, as I aged a bit, I got to thinking about why my mom did this stupid measuring ritual. I used to think that my mom was the only one who did this and that it was because David and I were adopted and she was afraid we were going to be midgets. You really don’t know what you get when you adopt. And I was thinking that I must be a midget.
So, this worried me. I never told anyone about this. I didn’t want anyone to know that I may be a midget. I realize that I am being politically incorrect with my “midget” talk, but that’s what we called them in the sixties. No one said, “little person.” They said “munchkins” once in a while, but that is because of the Wizard of Oz. Shit, maybe my dad or grandfather was the mayor of Munchkinland. I was going to have to wait about 6 months for it to be on tv again. I would have to wait to check the resemblance.
But, you know, I didn’t feel like a midget. Maybe my mom just liked to mark up the kitchen wall. Graffiti woman. I couldn’t wait for the house to drop on the wicked witch of the east. There was only one thing to do. I had to just come out and ask my mom. I approached her one evening while she was reading her National Enquirer and smoking her precious Salem cigarette. The dog was on her lap.
“Why do you measure us with a pencil all of the time?”
“To show you how nice and tall you are growing.” She saved an exhale of lovely smoke for my second hand lungs.
“What do you mean, why?”
“Why do you mark how tall we are?” And then I burst out crying.
“Am I a midget?”
“What? ……Vickie, what are you talking about?” She laughed at me. And that pissed me off.
“David and I are midgets.”
“You are not a midget. Your height is normal for your age. You are just very thin.” What? Midgets couldn’t be thin?
I just couldn’t quit crying. I am trying to remember how old I was when I asked her this. I do remember wearing my stupid plaidish skirt uniform that I had to wear while attending Sacred Heart of Mary Juana Academy, so I had to be anywhere from first to third grade. My midget years.
Later that evening, I could over hear my mom talking to her friend, Lenore, on the telephone. Lenore lived in Tennessee, and had no business knowing my business. I sat in my secret eavesdropping spot and listened to the whole conversation.
“Honestly, I don’t know where she comes up with these things….. She thinks she is a midget.”
And then I heard her say it. I wish I knew what Lenore asked.
“No, not black. David is a bit dark, though.” And then she laughed.
What? Black? I can’t be black. I have blond hair. David could be black. And a midget.
Adoption just sucks.
Well, I obsessed for a few days before I found out that a lot of people had measuring charts. Some had them in closets. Some on the back of doors. Some in their doorway. My mom was a loon and had ours right in the kitchen by the telephone.
I wish someone would have taken a picture of it before it was scrubbed off. It became a smudged eye sore after a while, this pencil marking chicken scratch of a family memory.
I was curious to see if anyone still does this. We did it with our kids for just a little while in our closet under the steps. When we built our new house, we just never did it anymore.
I found charts that you can buy.
I don’t know about this. I’m glad we didn’t have this giraffe growth chart when I was little. It was bad enough thinking I was a midget.
I would have been freaking out thinking that my mom expected us to get as tall as a giraffe.
And you know that would never have happened.
My mom’s second hand smoke stunted my growth I am sure.
Oh, hell, maybe I am a giraffe.