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On being little

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Height is one of those givens most of us live by. All hail, consistency! At some point around puberty we stop growing and start filling out applications with the same numerals as ever. You don’t have to look it up.

Right there among some other knowns, it’s written on the wall of our skulls.

Our height.

But, eye color? Blue.

Hair? Brown (maybe).

Height? Five feet, 6 1/2 inches.

Weight? 124 pounds (unless you live in Europe, where your weight is logged in stones.)

Imagine waking up one day and discovering that your eyes had changed to orange or that your gender is not what it was yesterday.

Or you’re shorter by more than three inches.

I’m that. I don’t know when it happened or what caused it, but for some reason I’m three inches shorter than I was 60 plus years ago.

My mother, herself never more than 5ft.-2 in., raised me to be 5 ft.-6” in. tall and proud of it. Or because, maybe, I could reach high boxes or dishes. And here I thought it was just a ruse to get me into the kitchen.

About a year ago, I discovered that I couldn’t reach the highest shelves in my own kitchen, and needed either a stepstool or Dave.

Bless ’im. Concerned about the slouch my spine has taken, he put a heavy closet rod at the top of the door between our bedroom and bathroom, as high as I could reach and still allow my fingers to curl over it. A couple of minutes hanging on relieves sciatica for at least a little while.

I didn’t need the stretch-bar earlier this year, but the day came when I just had to hang there for a minute. I could barely touch the bar. Once I did reach it, I had most of the weight off my back, but each time I use it I feel as though this is the last time I’ll be able to.

The upside of this peculiar shrinkage is that I can dance now with my head on Dave’s chest instead of his face, where we usually tangle glasses. The downside (and you knew there would be a downside) was that instead of having to let down the hem of slacks and dresses, as I have done since I was a teen, I’ve had to shorten them.

I tried on an old skirt I really like the other day, and it fell almost to my ankles. My decreased height has made my clothes too long.

I got to thinking about all these little changes in life, and said grace over the majority of them, so inconsequential they are against the vast blank canvas of our lives. Good thing we can’t see the future or the end of our lives. We’d miss the tiniest – and the most beautiful – dramas around us.

Because of this year’s extremes of heat and rainfall, we haven’t spent much time outdoors. It’s been too hot to enjoy the boat, and I gave up gardening a couple of years ago because of the mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and biting flies, tiny nuisances that can make life miserable.

Which means that if we’re going to spend time outside, we have to put up screens to block insects, sunscreen to block the sun, and repellents, sprayed or rubbed in.
So here I am, late in the afternoon, nipping unwanted extra shoots, and deadheading the flowers that are giving up. This year was good for caladiums, their large showy leaves, white with dark green veins, a fine backdrop for salmon-pink geraniums.

I lean over to see what just moved in the leaves of a tall rosemary stalk that thrives in this weather. The top inches of this herb is fresh and growing, and standing on one of the leaves is a brand-new praying mantis. When he turned I realize he is the exact color of the rosemary leaf he’s standing on, and he would have been invisible to me if his triangular head was lined up straight along his leaf.

The little fellow was no more than an inch long, his eyes microscopic. I watched him watching me, when he suddenly froze. A neighboring geranium was giving safe passage for an anole, called by some a chameleon or a lizard, a perfectly shaped descendant of a dinosaur.

His slender body was pale green and his overall length might have made two inches if you counted his tail. I don’t know if he was just finishing lunch – I didn’t see any scraps – but as we eyed each other, he stuck out the prettiest pink tongue, licking his lips and perfect in every way.

I didn’t want to come in the house, even though the sun was broiling the three of us. These two little fellows may be credited by their peers for the fact that no bug spray is used under the deck of our home. I hate the palmetto bugs, roaches, and daddy longlegs that breed under there, but to poison them is to poison beauty like I watched today.
Where did they live out this afternoon, if indeed they did? The mosquito that the mantis had for breakfast? The anole that dined on mantis? The blue jay that may have tried anole for lunch?

The human that startled all of them on a scorching summer day?

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