Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Always Thought I'd Be Taller

At some point or another in one's childhood, I think that it's normal to wish that you were older. I think that's probably the reason that up until we're about 10 or 11, we count our age in halves or even quarters: "I'm four-and-three-quarters" or "I'm nine-and-a-half."

I don't remember a time in my childhood that I wasn't wishing I was older. I think that for me, the yearning had something to do with the fact that my brother was SO much older. He got to do really cool things that I was going to be too young to do for a very long time. I remember being four and wishing I was thirteen (when Andy got Bar Mitzvahed), being seven and wishing I was sixteen (the year Andy got a car), and being eight and wishing I was seventeen (the year Andy went to prom and graduated from high school).

I vividly remember being about two-years-old when my dad promised that he would teach me to fly when I turned ten (I truly believed that he could fly until I was almost eight), that I could get my ears pierced when I turned thirteen (my mom relented at 11), that I could shave my legs when I was twelve (I started shaving them at summer camp long before this), and that they would never ever let me drive (Andy crashed the car he got for his 16th birthday not long after he got it).

But for me, the yearning to be older didn't end. When I was a teenager, I wanted desperately to be in college. I thought that the world would be my oyster, that I would take it all by storm, that if I could simply bypass the years between high school and grown-up, life would be better. I even wished it in my 20s, thinking that my 30s would be so much easier -- financially, emotionally, professionally.

Wishing the years away has never really stopped me from living in the moment. Rather, it has always been a way to remind myself to slow down, to live through what I'm currently experiencing. And it has always served as a reminder that I can and should envision the future, that it might not always be as difficult as whatever I'm currently experiencing.

But there was another component to the whole fantasy of being older (and wiser) than I was. Whenever I pictured the grown-up version of myself, I was always taller. Not much taller, not freakishly tall, but certainly a few inches taller. A more respectable 5'5", say.

The taller-than-I-am image of myself has persisted throughout my adult life. When I imagined myself graduating from college, I stood in my cap and gown and modest heels, standing head-to-head with my friends. When I pictured myself walking down the aisle at my wedding, I was wearing flats, because I naturally came to somewhere around my dad's cheek. When I pictured myself in a courtroom, I comanded quite a presence in my sleek pumps, because the extra three inches they gave me made me a daunting 5'8".

And here I am, about to have a baby. I am quite round these days, so round that I wonder if I am awkwardly round, round like I give the impression that I might topple forward at any moment. I am the kind of round that causes strangers to chuckle at me as I waddle down the stairs. I look like I swallowed a bowling ball and then ate about 12000 calories. Every day for nine months.

I did not expect to be a tall pregnant woman. But even now, two weeks before my due date, I imagine a taller version of myself bending down to retrieve a dropped blankie or pacifier or taking our bundled bean out of our car. As it is, I will be stuck with myself, 5'2" on a tall day, frantically trying to scale our not-so-tall SUV in order to awkwardly haul the carseat out of the car, which is a little bit higher than is convenient for my height.

I think that the taller-than-I-am images in my mind are really about being older, being old enough, rather, to be someone's mom. My own mother was short, just 4'11" in bare feet, so it's not like I associate motherhood with exceptionally tall women. No, it's just that ever since I can remember, being older, being old enough to do SOMETHING, also meant being taller.

Now that there are just two weeks left in the pregnancy, people have started asking me whether or not I'm ready. In case you're interested, this is a terrible question for me. Of course I'm not ready. How can you be ready to be a parent? Isn't that sort of the point of parenting? You're not ready...ever... for anything? I mean, sure, you have blankets and clothes and diapers, but is that the kind of thing that makes you ready? Not by my standards.

Anyway, this is what I want to tell people when they ask: "No, of course I'm not ready. I have to grow three inches in the next two weeks; who can possibly be ready for that?!"

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