September 17, 2007
I've always had a morbid fascination with people who suffer from gigantism, ever since my own freakish growth spurt in fifth grade, which sent me from being a normal, even slightly smallish kid to a 5'11", size 11 shoe-wearing monster who towered over most of my classmates by the next year. I had no way of knowing that I was only two inches away from my eventual adult height. I thought it was the beginning of the end for me. In my mind, I was going to be one of the tall, lonely people detailed in the Guinness Book of Records, shambling around sadly with a cane and a crowd of onlookers, waiting for my giant heart to fail. I'm not kidding, it was a very real fear for me.
I don't think Schuyler has any such fear. She is getting tall, but not unusually so, and probably only to my eyes since she was a tiny little infant, what, like two weeks ago? I understand the inevitability of Time and its steady march, but with a bad birthday coming up, I feel a little like that march is happening right over my face. And Time might just be wearing rollerblades.
The documentaries we watched discussed the inevitability of unwanted public attention for their subjects, and for some reason, this really caught Schuyler's attention. Schuyler is luckier than a great many broken children in that she doesn't get a lot of stares. Her condition isn't one that attracts stares or comments, not immediately. It sneaks up on people who see her as a normal, even precocious kid right up until the moment that the Big Box of Words comes out of its bag, or she starts talking loudly and excitedly about something.
But she's aware of her difference, and last night, she wanted to talk about it.
She pointed to the woman on TV as she stood in a crowd of gawkers, and she signed to me that the woman was sad. I was a little surprised by this observation, since it wasn't an obvious thing to notice; the woman was smiling for the photos, after all. I suppose Schuyler has seen her share of sad smiles.
"Why are all those people looking at her?" I asked.
Schuyler put her hand on top of her head and then thrust it up in the air as if she were being measured.
"She's different, isn't she?" I said. "Who else do you know who's different?"
She indicated herself, pointing to her throat. She then went on to name her classmates one at a time, signing the things that made them different. We'd had a discussion earlier in the day about treating people who are different with respect, after she had pointed to a waiter and signed that he had a red nose. The topic was apparently still on her mind.
"Everyone's got something different about them, don't they?"
She gave this some thought and then pointed to me and indicated that I was also very tall. (Well, when you're four feet tall, isn't everyone?) She reached out, rubbed her hand on my beard and laughed. Well, it does look different, and not necessarily in a flattering way. I didn't need a seven year-old to tell me that.
Interestingly, when asked what was different about her mother, Schuyler couldn't think of anything. Julie wears her freak on the inside.