April 9, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on April 8, 2018

In just a few days A. turns 26, and I hope he celebrates. Sometimes I can’t quite fathom that I have grown children.



Yesterday, on the way home from Cambridge, W. and I stopped at Market Basket for groceries. The cashier suddenly asked me, “How tall are you?” I was wearing those brown shoes that have a 1″ heel, so I was noticeably taller than W., who was standing next to me. I think that’s what provoked her question – not because I looked that much taller than he, but because I looked noticeably tall. I told her that I used to be 5’9-1/2″ tall, but that I seem to have shrunk in recent years to perhaps 5’8-1/2″. She thought this was still quite phenomenally tall, though; she should meet some of the really tall women I’ve known…

I asked about her height – the storied five-foot-two, it turned out. But no eyes of blue on her. She had been bantering in Spanish with the bagger, a middle-aged man who looked even shorter than her 5’2″ (but I suspect our cashier wore heels) and with the bagger at the next till, a rather tall, lanky teen. Like her coworkers, she herself was quite brown, but very different, too. With eyes of brown, and hair to match. In fact, she was curiously undifferentiated in color – eyes, hair, skin, lips even: all in almost the same, really the exact same, shade of clay-ish brown. And she was lovely.

She began to tell me about her two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother, both taller than she. No, correction: the younger brother is at this point still shorter, but only eight years old. So she expects he’ll exceed her height soon. “I’m the only one who’s short,” she complained.

She spoke English without any accent, just as I’m sure her Spanish was fully “native,” i.e., unaccented. I asked her how old she was. Sixteen, she answered. Maybe it was her dusky color: I had pegged her as older. Perhaps her skin texture – not its color – lacked the fresh dew of young years. She looked older. Maybe she has an aging gene or something happening with her hormones, which also prevent a triggering of growth. But my first response, which I voiced, was that she’s still so young, she could easily not be done yet with growing. “Do you think so?” she asked happily. Oh yes, I told her; once you get to my age, of course, you might lose some height, but you, you could still grow a couple of inches. When I told her that older people can shrink, our bagger, himself middle-aged unlike his youthful coworkers, laughed. But she seemed horrified at the prospect, longing as she did now, at sixteen, for every scrap of vertical “advantage.” Sixteen. To be that young.

W. and I had gone to Cambridge to hear Sol Trujillo and Henry Cisneros at the 8th Annual FDR Lecture. It was interesting, if too short (no pun intended). I would have liked to have asked some questions (around competition, culture, and business, all interlinked – and even cities), but there wasn’t time when the event ended. There was a reception at Adams House afterward, but W. didn’t want to go, so we had to skip it. Walked around Cambridge a bit, tried to go to Toscano (no seats available, not even at the bar – at 5:30p.m.!), and opted to drive home.

I wonder what prompted the Market Basket cashier’s question, really. Maybe it was something I was exuding, or signaling. W. suggested that I wouldn’t have gotten past all the other people wanting to ask Cisneros and Trujillo questions at the reception, so I should stop moping about him preventing me (us) from going in the first place. Forget about it, he said; and I said, (half-jokingly, half-assertively), “I’m a tall, statuesque blonde, I would have gotten through!” Of course Cisneros and Trujillo had spent the hour talking about Latino contributions to the US society and economy, and how currently they (Latinos) are our time’s “niggers” (Trujillo borrowing Dick Gregory‘s formulation). And then at Market Basket there’s the 5’2″ cashier, a Latina, asking about my privilege …my height…

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