For starters, my mom is 6’2” and my dad is 6’5”. So, naturally, I have been tall my whole life. Its never really bothered me, but it does make me uncomfortable sometimes. Everywhere I go people ask me how tall I am and if I play basketball or volleyball or modeled. It bothered me when I was young and socially awkward, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to handle it.
It was the summer of 2010. I was nine years old and about to be a fourth grader. A brochure came in the mail for Busch Gardens camp, and I was so excited when my mom signed me and my twin sister, Elise, up for next week. The camp was five days, and each day we would go to Busch gardens and ride rides, learn about animals, do arts and crafts, and make friends. Within my first hour I already had made a group of friends; a girl with a long dark ponytail named Ashley, a brainiac named Zach, a blonde girl named Sarah, a pale brunet boy with about a million freckles named Bruce, and my twin sister Elise. By the third day we were all pretty close. The counselor took us to what I called dragon land, which is a huge, dragon themed four-story playground for kids which consisted of a rope course, a rope bridge, and an obstacle course. There were also a few restaurants and some kiddy rides, but the playground was the main attraction. I always loved it because although I was defiantly tall enough, I was always afraid to go on rollercoasters, so I just played on the enormous playground and I never had the urge to do anything else. My friends and I raced up the rope bride and into the obstacle course. I leapt into the obstacle course and crawled through, emerging on the other side. Right as I was about to dive in again, an employee stopped me.
“Excuse me, Miss.”
I whirled around, my dirty-blonde curly ponytail lightly smacking my right cheek. The voice belonged to a man, a pasty employee who looked roughly twenty-six-years old with thinning brown hair.
“Could you please step over here?” He gestured to a metal pole that was perpendicular to the ground, with green and red tape on it. The green meant that you were the right height to play on the playground. The red meant you were too tall to play with the other children. And guess which color I lined up with.
So I staggered down two flights of stairs to the ground floor where the counselors were waiting for us. They asked me why I was coming back down, and I told them I had gotten kicked out for being too tall. I managed to keep myself composed while I was walking to one of the benches, but the second I sat down I began to cry. I couldn’t help it, I was nine. I was a smart kid; I knew that I could never play on the playground again. I would always be too tall, because I would only every get taller. I was also a big rule follower, so I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong. In addition, I also felt a burning hatred for the 26 years old loser who had kicked me out of the playground and caused all this. All the other campers were still playing, why did it matter if I was two inches too tall? What did that guy have to gain from kicking me out? The more I thought about it, the harder I cried.
I turned in time to see Ashley jogging over to me, her black ponytail flicked back and forth. I furiously rubbed my eyes, blinking away the tears.
“Audra, why did you leave the playground? Are you hurt?” She had noticed my red flushed face and tear stained cheeks.
“No, I’m not hurt. But that jerk-face employee kicked me off the playground b-because he said I w-was too t-t-tall.” My voice broke and I wiped my eyes again.
Ashley sat down beside me smiled at me reassuringly. “It’s okay, we can just play down here.”
I blinked. “No, its okay. You can still play on the playground, so you should. Don’t worry about me.”
Ashley shook her head and smiled again.
“No really, I would much rather play with you down here than on the playground without you. I’m going to go tell the others. I’ll be right back.” She stood and jogged away. I was beyond moved. Ashley was my friend, but I couldn’t believe she would give up her time on the most fun playground ever just to hang out with me, the realty tall freak.
“Hey, Audra!” I turned and saw Ashley coming toward me with Zach, Sarah, Bruce, and Elise in tow.
“Hey guys!” I stood and grinned broadly, incredibly thrilled and touched that all 5 of them had come. “You really don’t have to come play with me. You should go back you still have half an hour left.”
“Nonsense,” Zach said matter-o-factly, “we are going to have a way better time down here.”
I grinned, realizing that nothing I could say would persuade them to change their minds.
“Well, what should we all do?” I inquired.
Ashley considered that for a moment.
“We could play in the dragon lagoon.” We looked over to the long, one-foot deep pool and its arching fountains, sprawling dragon statues, and rock formations which were perfect for climbing. It was decided that this was a spectacular idea and we immediately took off our shoes and socks and placed them on the bench. We spent the next thirty minutes playing games and splashing around, looking like a bunch of lunatics but we didn’t care what anyone thought of us. And we ended up having a really great time, probably way more fun than if we had all stayed in the playground. That day I realized two things. I realized that I would always be tall and that was something I was going to have to embrace. I also realized that no matter what life throws my way or what problems I’m dealing with, my friends would always be there to love and support me.