Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday: 20/20

I first realized there might be something wrong with my vision in sixth grade.  My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, switched up the seating chart, and I ended up on the back row next to a black-haired boy named Alan.  Boys still had cooties in those days (and for the next five years, at least--I was a late bloomer), but I had to break my silence when I noticed something odd.  Mrs. Bullock was standing at the chalkboard, her wrist moving smoothly, producing her signature curlicue script, except...

"Is the chalk broken?" I hissed.  Alan looked at me blankly.  "The chalk!" I said.  "There's nothing coming out of it!"  Alan continued to stare.  Looking back, I'm not sure if he was afraid of my cooties or if he just thought I was stupid.

Finally, he said, "Uh, the chalk is fine."  He turned towards the front with an eye-roll.  I followed suit, staring intently at the blank green board and wondering if this was an Emperor's New Clothes-esque conspiracy.

I waited for the teacher to sit at her desk before timidly making my way to the front of the room.  Several rows up, thin white lines appeared on the board.  A few steps further, and the lines formed themselves into legible script.  I was unnerved.  Moments later, an understanding Mrs. Bullock switched me to the front row.  

I didn't think much of the incident until a couple weeks later when it was time for vision screening.  I was nervous as I stood in line waiting for my turn to read off the lines of letters.  I took the proffered cardboard circle, held it over my right eye, toed the line and said, "E."  

"Good," the man said.  "How far down can you go?"

I hesitated.  "Well, the next line looks like P and... S?"  He frowned.  
Next thing I knew, I was at the end of another line--the line for the kids who failed the screening.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I watched the rest of my classmates troop back to the classroom.  

A few weeks later, my mom set up an eye appointment for me.  I still remember trying on my glasses for the first time.  I stood in the optometrist's office and glanced out the window at an adjacent empty lot.  

"There are clods of dirt and tiny little rocks all over the ground!" I exclaimed.  "And individual leaves on the trees!"  It was surreal--I'd had no idea what I was missing.  There was a whole new level of definition to the world that I'd been completely ignorant of.  


There are times when I take off my glasses at night as Jay drives me around.  Every light we pass is a swollen, twelve-pointed sphere with the symmetry of a snowflake.  I'm surrounded by colorful globes springing from taillights, stoplights and streetlights.  I feel blind, but warmed.  

I love sharp, crisp detail--to see things as they are.  But sometimes, surrounded by starkness, I miss the softness of blurred outlines and fuzzy figures.  

One of my favorite things to this day is to take out my contacts and sit in the dark in front of our lit Christmas tree.  Each tiny colorful light becomes a large, brilliant globe, each ethereal sphere hung like an ornament.  There is something transcendently beautiful about the softness of it.

Becoming an adult, losing childhood naivet√©, has been refreshing in some ways, like putting on a pair of glasses I didn't know I needed.  Still, though, I sometimes miss going through life in a blissful haze, seeing the world without its sharp angles or harsh details, each pinprick of light something delicate, gauzy and beautiful.


  1. What a great story.

    I think for those of us who started wearing glasses in elementary school, we all have a story like this. I don't remember anything in particular, in fact I think my mom just knew to take me in and have me tested- then I got glasses.

    I wonder what Alan's up to...

  2. have you ever thought about submitting short stories for publication?

  3. Hmmmm Christmas! I love Christmas! Maybe you can come over for some Christmas cookies soon--I'm officially on sugar again :) You can take out your contacts while you're at our house anytime-except when we're playing pinochle!

  4. This is beautifully written!! I know EXACTLY how you feel. (I try and get away with sleeping in my contacts because I can't stand "missing out" on the details around me-that and I don't want to trip on my way to the bathroom...HA!)

  5. the EXACT same thing happened to me when I was in 3rd just stopping in from MMB.

  6. i feel the same about my vision and perspective. beautifully written.