On November 17, 2005 you passed away. You were the only little person in your family, one of nine children eight of which had the Cecil trademark of red hair, green eyes and freckles. You had me at 24, and I came out the same way. I must admit, I never thought about what a miracle that was until 35 years later, I had my own daughter, Kaya Rose. No red hair, no green eyes, one solitary freckle (for now) but also a little person.
I find myself wondering daily if having grown up in a family of all average height siblings and parents, did you delight in having a smaller version of yourself? Was it exciting for you to be able to put into this child an acceptance, a love even, of her body? Because while at the time it was normal for me, I see now, 39 years later what a gift it was. Now that there are three generations of dwarf women in our family, I like to think that our bodies are our birthright.
I never thought much about the differences between having a girl and having a boy, until Kaya came along. But as many times as I longed to hear your voice on the other end of the line between the time you passed and Kaya’s date of birth, it’s doubled since then. The pressure of raising kids is intense, but for some reason I think it’s harder with girls. My daughter is a bi-racial African American little person. She does not see her face or faces like hers staring back at her on children’s television, she does not see books that reflect her reality.
So it’s up to Patrick and I to set the right “internal controls” as it were, to ensure that your grandchildren do not hate what they see in the mirror.
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Media has the idea that when disabled people dream, we dream of being like nondisabled people. That if I could, I would straighten my arms, lengthen my legs, shrink my forehead, and take inches of my butt. It couldn’t be further from the truth and I firmly believe you are the reason I am 4 foot 2 inches tall in my dreams.
No multi-billion dollar campaign by PhrMa or BioMarin could compare to your mama telling you that you’re beautiful, you’re smart, you’re perfect as you are. The Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex tells us we should “remedy our potential future maladies” and subject our offspring to genetic technologies that would change our babies to your cookie cutter mold.
I hear your voice in my head, “fuck that, our bodies are revolutionary.”
I was told my trident hands were magic, that only a certain percentage of the world were given hands that naturally fall into Spock’s “live long and prosper” pose. I remember endless times holding your hand, or putting my hand up against yours and seeing how the gap between my middle and ring fingers was mirrored in yours.
Were you doing things like this consciously? Were you intentional in countering the messaging I’d get from the outside world when you’d talk to me? I never heard you say a negative thing about your body, not once. You may have said that you wished you were healthier at times, but I never got a single impression that you didn’t like what you’d see when you looked in the mirror. That, to me, was the measure of your power. Part of me wonders if your repeated mantra that “Beccaboo, your body is beautiful. You are exactly how God intended you to be, perfect” was also a way to reinforce that message to yourself too.
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You never compared my body to the body of my friends, whether they be other little people or average height. We used to talk about the freedom we got from attending Little People Conventions. How while they allowed us to be the person we wish we could be in our day to day lives, they also provided us with our true mirror. No need to explain why we sat in our crouch stances, or why dwarf babies scoot across the dance floor on their butts like a seated game of Frogger. We lamented clothing that lost its uniqueness when we had to alter it, or cursed about tailors who don’t listen to our guidance on how long to make our sleeves.
We are the cartographers of our bodies, we know each measure of latitude and longtitude. We’d know and show off each scar from each surgery, and who our wardmates were in whatever hospital we were at. We are all different sizes, different shapes, different diagnoses at these events, but we are all beautiful for that week.
With you Mom, it was never just a week. It was always. I try to do that daily for Jackson and Kaya. Patrick and I tell them how beautiful they are. I think it’s sinking in because when I ask them their favorite part of their body, they cheerfully exclaim “MY BUTT!!!!” I don’t know if it’s because they’re 6 and 3 and anything tied to butts is funny to them but I know if you were here you’d be laughing.
When I see my pregnant dwarf mama friends, watch their belly take up half of their body, I delight in the idea that there may be a beautiful dwarf baby inside, ready to match hands with her mama and continue the revolution.
All my love,
Your daughter, Rebecca
[Feature Image: Close-up of a parent’s hand holding the hand of their baby. On the baby’s hand is a red silk bracelet with gold and pink charms. The background is black. Source: Pexels]