Posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

Remember "Malcolm in the Middle"? The funny sit-com with the overwhelmed mother? I loved that woman--her family did what she told them to do! My style, overwhelm them with kindness, is not nearly as effective.

Anyway, the theme song from the show was "(You're not the) Boss of Me", lyrics that echo around every playground and family room with kids in conflict. The song was performed by an alternative rock band called They Might Be Giants. Giants I mention this especially for the rest of us 60s and 70s types who probably never heard of them.

My daughters have informed me, in rather snarky tones, that I should have heard of them, because the group's roots are firmly planted in Lincoln, Massachusetts, the town where I work and where two of the band lived and went to high school. (Before my time, but that is no excuse, right?)

I don't know where the band got their name, but I found myself mumbling it again this morning, and it had nothing to do with rock music or even being the boss of somebody.

Because I am currently house- and dog-sitting for friends and living in a house that I've known well for over 30 years but never actually lived in. I never had to hang up any shirts or get down the cereal or whatever. This stuff is up high! Okay, I'm short. I used to be about 5'3", although I seem to be shrinking. Top shelves are becoming a major difficulty. Of course, after a week here, I realize that some things have to be kept waaaaay high out of the reach of the dogs.

Remember that I'm a librarian. When I first got to the Lincoln Public Library, I rearranged the reference department so almost nothing was on the top shelves, and those books that were stashed up there were not used regularly. That lasted a couple of years; now all the shelves are full-to-crammed and I require a stepping stool to get down the foreign language dictionaries, the Dictionary of American Biography, Occupational Outlook Handbook, and the US Government Organization Manual--stalwarts all. Since a stress fracture of unknown cause last winter put me in a cast and on crutches for several weeks, I am loathe to climb much for fear of repeating the feat. Bottom line, I have to recruit colleagues or even patrons with longer arms than mine to get down the books. I do have one of those reach-extending Reacher gizmos with pincer ends to retrieve things from high places, and I'm pretty good at coaxing a 5-pound book off the shelf and into a waiting hand without doing any damage to myself or the tome. One friend thinks this should be a Librarian Olympics event. If it were, I'd be good for at least a bronze medal.

It's not just books on shelves, though. The work room of the library was redesigned a few years ago and most of the supplies were neatly stored in overhead cupboards. I can barely get the top-hinged doors open, let alone snag a package of index cards from the upper shelves. Of course, one of those designing the storage was the library's bookkeeper/goddess, like the secretary who really runs the show. I love her dearly, but I should have expected this short-coming (sorry) because we rented her summer home on the Cape a while ago and things were designed so high there that not only could I not reach the pantry top shelves, I couldn't even reach some of the on-off string switches for the lights. Yep, they must be giants.

Other areas of difficulty for us height-challenged folks are airplane overhead bins, supermarket top shelves, and subway straps. Talk about relying on the kindness of strangers! Closer to home, we can't get the last sock out of the washing machine or the can of soup from the high cupboard. Pantry I don't actually live with giants, although half of the family is fairly tall and half of us are .... not. Rather than complain, I bought myself another of those extension grabber thingies. It worked fine until my husband cleaned the kitchen. He stored the gizmo on a high shelf where I couldn't reach it.

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