2013.06.05 Young people say the skinniest things


I love young people. They say the nicest things—without even realizing it.

First, my niece Janell, when offering me the use of her lab coat said something like, “It’s huge! You’ll swim in it!” 

I had mentioned to her on a recent visit that I needed a lab coat to wear so I could pretend to be a scientist while visiting the kids at school to promote the Summer Reading Program. 

(The theme this year is “Full STEAM Ahead!” and we’ll be dabbling in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math. Assistant Library Director Sheri Frost gets to be the African congo dancer...representing the Bichini Bia Congo Dancers who will be here July 10.

I’m most excited about the July 17 performance by Audacious Hoops when kids will also learn about the physics of hula hooping, because I seem to have lost the ability to keep a hoop spinning around my middle. It seems like with all the middle I’ve got, a hoop would stay up.)

Back to Janell...she mailed the lab coat from Atlanta and I laughed a lot when I tried it on. I could barely make the first button reach its hole. What did she mean by “huge,” I wondered. Does she really think I am on her side of the body size spectrum?

Then, Maddie, during her massive decision-making packing party last Thursday night, threw me her tan sweater that I have coveted for years and said, “Oh, here, you’ll like this. You’ll want to wear it all the time.” 

It’s a great cardigan and I do love it—and have always admired it when she wore it. But it’s a repeat of Janell’s lab coat. I have to grunt and pull to make the material cover my girth, and I cringe, hesitating to button and stretch it out of shape. The front pockets sit on my hips...not atop my thighs where their designer intended.

Why do they think I’m as skinny as they are and capable of wearing these items? I’m flattered, but I think they have a serious deficiency in ability to assess size. Although, Maddie, for her part, did accurately judge the volume of both her suitcase and backpack and their ability to contain enough clothing to get her through the rest of the year.

Yes, Maddie is on the move again, poised to complete a plan set in motion last January. She’s heading to Santa Cruz, Calif., to do an internship on the organic farm she had planned to work at this time last year. 

Back then New Zealand and Australia proved too enticing, too hard to leave, so she negotiated an extension on the internship offer and then another. Which ultimately led to my living room floor being almost completely covered with copious quantities of clothing as Maddie sorted it into piles of “no,” “maybe,” and definitely “yes.” I sat for hours as she whittled, and whittled yet again, clothing she could ultimately do without.

She probably could have done without most of it altogether—leaving it in Chicago. She and I traveled there on Tuesday—an all-day trip to retrieve her clothing from all over Chicago.

First we had to deliver two bikes to their owners, one at a time because we drove the Prius. Then we picked up possessions in no less than four different apartments, all of which she had keys for. In between this, we returned items from one place back to another we had just been to, returning sweatshirts that had been at Hillary’s apartment, for example, back to Carolyn’s where we had just picked up three heavy boxes.

If you knew Maddie at age three, or six, or 10, or 14, or 17, you would not know her now. The cling-on toddler, the mute middle schooler, the shy teen—she is gone, replaced by this outgoing, adventurous, poised and confident adult.

She makes friends easily and they lend her bikes, they store her stuff, they give her lodging (her “new best friend” Hillary let her stay the month of May on her couch after Maddie’s lease ran out in April). I don’t know how she did it, how she transformed herself into this new person.

Hmm, maybe she tells everybody they’re skinny?