Good Things Come in All Shapes & Sizes
Written by Elizabeth Gale
I gave up my daughter at birth. I laid eyes on her once, immediately following her delivery. Then she was gone.
I spent decades looking for her. Private investigators, costing thousands of dollars, had turned up nothing for years. I had almost given up. Then, a month ago, my PI gave me a list of five women. One of them was likely my daughter. Unable to determine which, I invited all of them here, to my cooking class to see for myself.
Now I stood at the front of the class, watching the students pile in. I found myself assessing each woman that passed through the door. Was she the one? My lost daughter?
Giving birth almost killed me, I don’t mean that figuratively. I am a woman of short stature, otherwise known as a dwarf. If you want to get technical, I have Achondroplasia. At my tallest, I’m just under 4 feet tall. Short, even by dwarf standards.
I never intended to get pregnant. I was young and not used to male attention. The consequences never occurred to me.
As the tiny human grew inside me, so did the fear and anxiety. Doctors told me my baby wouldn’t be small, but a typically sized baby. It was hard enough to take care of myself, to carve my way in the world. I couldn’t imagine doing it with a child who would grow to be three times my size. I wouldn’t even be able to pick her in and out of her crib with my short arms.
Then there was the birth. After fourteen days in the hospital, 43 stitches and a blood transfusion, I knew I was lucky to be alive, even if I had given up my child.
It wasn’t easy to get over the trauma of birth, the sadness of losing a child. I dove into what I love – cooking. Nearly three decades later, I had my own show on The Cooking Network. America at large had grown to love me. I was the Tiny Home Cook and I buzzed around making family meals in a perfectly proportionate mini kitchen studio. Even the knobs on my studio oven had been made miniature for effect.
At the end of each of my shows, I portioned out the food in three sizes. For each portion size, I’d list the calories and how much a serving was for kids, small people and typical adults. “Because good things comes in all shapes and sizes,” I’d tagline at the end of each segment with a wink.
I stood there, at The Cooking Network symposium, ready to give my lesson. Suddenly I’d forgotten how to make and plate food. I could only think of meeting my daughter. I could only imagine her shock of discovering your birth mother was a dwarf. Would she hate me?
How could I be America’s favorite Tiny Home Cook, America’s tiny sweetheart, when I had given my child away? I preached against sizeism and I had given up my own flesh and blood because she was too big.
Now, I had a chance to meet her. She was here in front of me, an anonymous student in my cooking lesson.
All five potential daughters had registered to attend. Hundreds attended these cooking classes, but I scanned only for ones with pink VIP tags. Of the thirty VIPs, five were potential daughters. But only one was mine.
I peeked at the front rows, which were steadily being filled with women wearing pink tags. I eliminated the first few. Too old. Too young. None of the women in the first row could possibly be mine. My maternal heart had never been cultivated, but I just knew.
I made it onto the stage, following a huge introduction for the tiny lady I am. But size isn’t everything, and that’s what I preached
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” I began, “I’m here, as always, to remind you that good things come in all shapes and sizes. With this in mind, we cook for the large, we cook for the small and every size in between.” I made my way toward the dwarf-sized kitchen, stepping behind the counter crafted perfectly proportioned for my stature.
From the front of the stage, I could see all the women. Their pink name tags shone brightly at me as I scanned their faces.
She wasn’t there.
Disheartened, I threw myself into the script I knew so well. I began the turkey bolognese, discussing portion sizes and calorie counts. I talked about sustaining bodies of all sizes and shapes. I talked like I always do, the things that made me America’s Tiny Home Cook. I dove in, focused and prepared. With hundreds of students in attendance, I pushed aside my disappointment over my missing daughter. The show must go on.
About half way through – bolognese on the stove, garlic bread in the oven – there was a small commotion in the front row. A new attendee had arrived and others were shuffling around, making room.
I looked up from stirring my sauce and saw her.
There she was, my daughter. It was unmistakable. She looked exactly like me in the face and eyes. She wore a crocheted cape over her shoulders.
Only once she had removed the cape, I could see she wasn’t sitting. She was standing in front of the chair. And she was tiny like me – a dwarf.
It was crushing to learn that, after all this time and searching – I had been wrong. I didn’t give her up for size. I had given her up for fear. I only hoped I had time to make it up to her.
I finished the bolognese quickly, plating in three portion sizes. “Remember,” I told my students, “Good things come in all shapes and sizes.” And for the first time, I was beginning to understand what my own words meant. I could only hope my daughter would too.