At my seventh-grade awards assembly, I received a trophy for being the smallest kid in the school. The size of the trophy reflected my accomplishment, and nobody envied my achievement. Being short meant being overlooked, literally, in crowded hallways and getting an occasional elbow in the ear in the lunch line.
I'm sure my English teacher had size in mind when she cast us in our roles for Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She made me queen of the fairies and gave the role of king of the fairies to Craig Holdaway, one of the tallest boys in the school. We got a lot of laughs when I addressed my lines to his belt buckle and he talked to the top of my head. Good thing the play was supposed to be a comedy.
Usually I didn't find much to laugh about in being a shrimp. I felt that people often treated me as younger than I was or assumed that height was a measure of intelligence. Actually, it sometimes took a lot of ingenuity to accomplish my goals, such as getting a can from the top shelf in the supermarket or finding a sitting position that would let me see the movie over the heads of the basketball players seated in front of me.
My tall friends always assured me that tallness had its own disadvantages. When the history teacher asked a tough question, it was hard for them to scrunch down in their seats and disappear. Craig had trouble folding his six-foot-something frame into desks designed for five-foot-something students.
I did discover a few advantages to my size. Once a month the boys' and girls' gym classes combined for a dance. I was always assured of a dance partner, since I was the only girl shorter than Tony Hill, and he wouldn't dance with a girl who was taller than he was. Still, dancing with Tony just didn't make up for all the problems of being short.
The summer after I received my dubious seventh-grade award, I was old enough to get a job picking cherries. I worried that I might not be tall enough to qualify, just as I still wasn't tall enough to drive the bumper cars at the amusement park. (My head didn't reach the sign saying "You must be this tall to enter.") But size didn't seem to be a hindrance when I joined the cherry-picking squad. In fact, the owner of the orchard seemed rather pleased to see me.