Are You Tall, Exceedingly Tall?

True Story.

My best friend in high school was Christine. I spent many nights at her house in Woodside Hills in the downstairs den. The den had a big, soft, corduroy couch, a huge, brick fireplace (loved it), a table, and a work space behind the couch that was filled with pine cones. Her mother made pine cone wreaths, and I assume, it was a bit of an obsession as pine cones were generally everywhere. Christine’s father, a forester, I gathered, was the one responsible for the gathering. Although, I think the husband and wife team spent a lot of time gathering together. I loved the wreaths. Most of the couples I knew played bridge, or in my parent’s case, golf. So, I thought it was super sweet that he helped her gather pine cones, and assemble wreaths, and that it wasn’t bridge or golf, but something different. Something that required they spend hours in that den wrapping floral wire around pine cones–just the two of them.

Christine’s mom was a stay-at-home-mom, right around the time that was beginning to be out of fashion. I think she sold the pine cone wreaths at local art fairs, and made extra Christmas money.She was very frugal.

Her frugal ways extended to her daughter’s wardrobe. She made both her daughters’ school clothes. Each fall, she would take the girls shopping, and they’d pick out all the things they liked, and then, instead of buying it, she’d go home and make it. Her sewing skills were pretty phenomenal, and I was always surprised that their home-made clothes turned out as good as the real deal. But, here’s the deal.

The mother constantly told Christine to beware of the shoes she bought to go with the outfits. We were in high school and boys were on our minds, and Christine was very tall, exceedingly tall. So, flats were her only option if she didn’t want to look down on every guy. While I was beginning to pick out heels to go with my Sunday dresses and prom dresses, Christine was stuck with ballet flats. We both thought that was just the worst.

Skip ahead four years to college degrees and professional jobs, and Christine and i are roommates trying to build careers. She was better at focusing on her career than I was. I was better at going on dates. But finally, she met a guy she thought was worth the trouble, and the hunt for the dress for the big night began. We went to the new Asheville Mall.

The difference was that, now, I was the one reminding her that she was tall, exceedingly tall. Flats were her only option.

We found the dress. A red slip of a thing that made Christine’s naturally black, curly hair and fair skin stand out like Cinderella, Except, with flats, the dress fell flat. She really needed heels to make the perfect dress perfect.(This was before the days of Nicole Kidman towering over Tom Cruise on the red carpet.) We were in the dressing room, looking at her profile in the three-way mirror. We felt she’d never looked better. Bemoaning what to do, wondering if he’d care if she looked down on him, and basically feeling like shopping failures, I asked hopefully, “Well, how tall is he?” She thought for a second and said, “Maybe 5’10.” I muttered what a shame he wasn’t at least 6′.

Then, I asked a question I’d never asked Christine, “How tall are you?”

“5′ 4,”  she said.

I am 5′ 6 1/2″  which meant, I looked down on her! “Christine,” I said, “You’re not tall. You’re not exceedingly tall!”

Turns out Christine’s mother was barely 5′. So, to her, Christine was terribly tall.

But to the rest of the world? Christine wasn’t small, but she was not exceedingly tall. Red dress and heels went home with us, and we drank a bottle of wine to high heels, and new revelations, and I hung up my pine cone wreath. My Christmas present that year from Christine’s mom.

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