Passing Glasses

dorothy-parker-quote-men-seldom-make-passes-at-girls-who-wear-glassesI was four or five when I started wearing glasses.

I hated them.

They were heavy—this was when glasses were made of Real Glass—and made my nose hurt and my eyes look too small and they lost themselves twice a day and  broke about twice a month.*

But it was either wear ‘em or walk through a world that looked like it was covered in soft-lit fuzz, but still hurt when you tripped over it or walked into it,

So I endured steamed up lenses and sweat-slick frames and clip-on sunglasses and the conviction—supported by my gleeful sister, who didn’t have to have braces, either—that Dorothy Parker was right, until I turned fifteen** and my mother took me to an optometrist who specialized in contacts.

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I was overjoyed.

Contacts hurt at first, but not as much as being the weird kid with the glasses.

Turns out, I was a weird kid anyway and it would have saved time and endless agony if Dorothy Parker had offered a longer list of all the other qualities boys passed over *** or wrote a pithy poem about how to overcome one’s crippling self-esteem issues enough to notice when a boy was making a rare pass.^

But I was unwilling to give up on my Dreams of Normalcy—as defined by my assumptions of what other people assumed it was—and somehow ended up with the core belief that I Could Not Wear My Glasses In Public, lest dogs howl, small children cry, or well-meaning adults say things like, “Smarts count more than looks, anyway.”

It didn’t matter that some of the popular girls  in high school and some of my cousins and friends wore glasses and looked really good in them—they had attractiveness to spare and obviously weren’t  battling my natural deficits.

So I wore contacts—or sometimes just one, if the other escaped down the drain or disintegrated—outside the house or in front of anyone outside of my immediate family, or my ophthalmology clinic, for twenty-eight years.^^  I could go months without wearing my glasses at all, especially when I switched to extended wear disposables, bless them.

But then some things happened.

I finally met some of my favorite online friends face-to-face and (reluctantly) agreed to have my picture taken by and with them.  I survived the experience, and so did the cameras.

My doctor told me that some of my headache problems were most likely caused by eyestrain from wearing contacts for too many hours at a time in front of too many electronic devices and backlit rolls of microfilm.  Since the lenses on my glasses are anti-glare, she suggested that I wear them more often.

I set a new personal budget that is a bit stricter than my previous non-existent one.

And I ran out of left contacts.

According to my budget, contacts are luxury items.  And until I save up enough to get more,^^^I’m stuck with my glasses.

Oddly, at this point, this was more of an annoyance than a devastating tragedy, maybe because I know have family and good friends  and a husband who don’t care what I look like—or actually think I look pretty good.

Or maybe I’ve matured along the way somewhere.  Or at least run out of non-essential give a damn, which appears to be much the same thing.

Regardless, I started wearing my glasses to work.

It’s been a surprising experience.

I’d already figured out that my teenage paranoia was unfounded and my glasses aren’t a sign that the Ugly has finally claimed Its Own. I knew my colleagues wouldn’t point and laugh or call me four-eyes, at least to my face. And I’m so used to thoughtless comments from patrons I wasn’t especially braced for ‘em.

But I never expected all the compliments.

Glasses

Apparently, my big, black rimmed frames, chosen because they were cheap and relatively comfortable, aren’t considered BCGs¹ anymore—they’re retro.  In a good way.

In fact, according to most of the people who bothered to notice I was wearing them2, they’re flattering. They pull my “look” together.

How cool is that? I had no idea I had a “look”, let alone one that could be pulled together, but it’s a relief to know the specs don’t clash with whatever it is.

I even wore them to the Piano Guys concert, where I met another wonderful online friend, who looks awesome in her glasses.

So here I am.

Wearing glasses.

Having a “look.”

And yeah, these things still weigh on my nose and they steam up and slide down and smear and I can’t stick pencils behind my ear anymore, no matter how hard I try.  Chopping onions for the first time without the protection of contacts was definitely a Learning Experience™, as was opening the dishwasher, right after it stopped.

So was trying to put on sunglasses, which I attempted a few times before it dawned on me that the reason it wouldn’t work is that I hadn’t removed my pair.

I’d forgotten I had them on.

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*Could someone please tell me why items made to assist people who can’t see well are held together with screws so tiny that fully sighted people have trouble manipulating them without the aid of a powerful magnifier and the devil’s own luck?  And heaven help you if you lose one in a carpeted room . . .

**Barring a brief time around fifth grade when something—probably the dawning of acute astigmatism—warped my eyeballs into something that approached normal until it went too far.

***Or perhaps added a simple couplet:  “Because, until they mature, / They’re asses.”

^ Or so I was told about twenty years after the fact.

^^ The one time I did wear my glasses out—I was off sick, but still had to drive the kids to school—I received my first and only traffic ticket for nearly sideswiping a county squad car during an improper lane change.  It wasn’t the 102-degree fever, you understand—it was the glasses.

^^^Or decide to rock the eyepatch look—or squint like Popeye—until I run out of righties.  Halloween IS coming up . . .

¹Birth Control Glasses.  It’s a military term, like SNAFU.

²It took my sixth grader three days.  My second grader immediately started wearing her lens-free fashion frames so she could be as “pretty as Mommy.” I feel like Queen Lear.

Passing the Rabbit

English: pg 25 of The Velveteen Rabbit.

I know I said a while ago that I wasn’t going to muck out clean the kids’ playroom ever, ever again unless applying lighter fluid and a pack of matches counted, but I lied, okay? I might be one of those people whose personal filing system involves geological strata instead of folders but even I like to be able to walk into a room without having to wear steel-toed boots and shin guards.

So that’s what I did most of Saturday, which means the muscles in the back of my legs feel like someone beat me with the two miniature souvenir baseball bats I unearthed two hours into the job, and the hockey stick I sat on a little later.

The kids did help, to their credit, which means I’ve also gone hoarse, as Sunny’s hearing is inversely proportional to her level of boredom.

But everything is mostly in order.

The final harvest this time was two bags for the landfill, three bags of recycling, two bags of donations, and a ridiculously large pile of stuffed animals and dolls I’m going to have to throw out, too, because they can’t easily be washed, disinfected, or repaired and The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful lie.

The mess didn’t break my spirit, but this is threatening to break my heart.

The books were easier to pare down than this mountain of formerly-loved creatures.

How can I throw out Carla Baby, gone gray and grubby with love?

How am I supposed to let go of the Pooh Bear that was bigger than Jane when he arrived and kept her safe? Sunny’s one-eared piggie? The Very Hungry Caterpillar whose fuzzy antenna were gummed off by two Very Hungry Babies?

How can I toss the adorable hedgehog with the sock on his head. . . wait.  I don’t have to.  He’s mine.  And the Honeymoon Haggis.  Don’t ask.

But how can I possibly give up my children’s childhoods?

I can’t.  I just can’t.

Which is why, at the age of forty-cough, I’ve started a Grandparent Box.

I will fill this box with the discarded bits and pieces that mean so much to me because they meant everything to my kids once upon a time.

And when my children grow up and I eventually and inevitably become another one of those discarded things, I will tell my children’s children the stories of the Grandparent Box  as they hug the ladybug pillow with the missing spots and kiss the orange nose of the snowman with the chewed buttons.

There is no doubt that in the fullness of time and in the venerable tradition of my people, I will also bring a box or two whenever I visit and hide them in closets or a corner of the garage when no one’s looking.

You know, just in case the Velveteen Rabbit magic needs a little more time . . .

Chag Urim Sameach

When I was a kid and it was December, our family would gather around the Advent Wreath on the sideboard before dinner each night.  Either my sister or I would strike a match, light the appropriate number of candles, and read a prayer from the official mimeographed booklet:*

As we draw near to you, Lord God, keep us aware of your presence in all we do. Come with power to enlighten us by your grace, that we may live in praise and peace all our days.  We ask this through Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

And then we would go eat and argue about who would blow out the candles after dessert.

But for an overlapping handful of nights during that month, we would put the Advent pages down, take two steps over to gather around the menorah, strike another match to light the shamash, and read from different official booklet:

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh . . . Amein

And then we would light the appropriate number of candles in the menorah, go eat, and argue about who was going to blow out the Advent candles after dessert, since the hanukkiyah candles were allowed to go out by themselves under the watchful eye of my mother, who was less interested in keeping her offspring from committing a liturgical crime than keeping the cats from setting themselves alight.

Good times.  Good memories.

I thought maybe that this year, we would revive the tradition, my children and I, with our Espiscopalian prayers and wreath and my rusty Hebrew and the small menorah my grandfather*** brought me from Israel when I was only a little older than Sunny.

The other adults probably wouldn’t hold with this and my kids just want the chance to play with fire and wax, just like my sister and I did.

But that’s okay.

I couldn’t unearth the wreath in time,^ but I found the menorah and some candles that fit.  It will be well after sunset when I get home from work (it’s dark now), but Hanukkah isn’t a High Holy^^ and we don’t go much for orthodoxy, anyway, if you couldn’t tell.

That’s okay, too.  We all celebrate miracles in our own ways.

And on this Festival of Lights, I’m celebrating with crooked, striped birthday candles, good memories, two of my favorite pyromaniacs, a flammable cat . . .  and by sharing a video of several good-looking, talented Jewish boys singing a history lesson:

a lichtigin Chanukah, y’all!

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*Yes, I’m old. Now, hush.

**Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.

***My grandmother’s second husband, who married her when my mother was fifteen.  So my extended family is Jewish, but my immediate family isn’t.

^Or one of the wreaths, as my mother has given me at least four over the years, all of which disappear completely the moment we think about them—the traditional Christmas miracle.  Janie is fine with this, though, as she’s the one who  gets to light the big wreath at church for the early service this year.

^^Seriously, it’s actually a minor holiday, built up in perhaps unconscious response to The Hype that Ate Christmas.   Not that I don’t thoroughly enjoy the Hype, or most of it, but occasionally I wish we would all get a grip.

My Six-Degree Friendship

One of my dearest friends lives in Michigan.  

We see each other in person about once every five years, talk over the phone once every two, and start a flurry of e-mailings every couple of months—but whenever we do make contact, it’s as if we’ve each just stepped away for a second before returning.

Our entire friendship has been like this.  We met as teenagers and found that we were connected in a six-degrees-of-separation kind of way—we were friends of mutual friends or something, or maybe we only figured that out when we went to the same week-long summer camp?  I do remember that we went to see Children of a Lesser God together before I went off to music camp for the rest of the summer before senior year . . . or did we go after I returned? 

Regardless, we found each other and stuck despite the obstacles—mind you, this was 1987, before personal e-mail or cells.  Telephones had cords, and I stretched the one from the kitchen to the limit during loooooong conversations, lying on the dining room floor with my legs stretched up the wall.

As I recall, we were nigh inseparable our senior year—I think we watched Labyrinth almost every weekend.*  And then I went to an in-state college and she left for Ann Arbor and pretty much stayed there.  We did visit each other, and met up when we were both back home.  There were even a few coincidental meetings that proved our interconnectedness.

One of these was bizarre:  The daughter of my cousin (by my grandmother’s second marriage) was having her bat mitzvah.  We met my friend and her family coming up the walk to the synagogue.  Turns out she’s related to my cousin’s ex-husband (through a similarly distant connection).  We’d been cousins—of the several times removed by marriage and not really at all kind—the entire time (until the divorce).

How strange is that?

We were in each other’s weddings and are Fairy Godmothers to each other’s firstborn.  I moved up here—a bit closer to her, I think, if Chicago and Lake Michigan weren’t in the way—and we visited as often as we could until jobs and kids anchored us, and our usual contact was reduced to belated birthday presents and winter holiday gifts that usually arrive around spring.   

But today, I found a surprise package on my desk at work.  This was inside:

  

The poem reads: 

When her children ask her
how she did it all,
she will tell them, she didn’t
she learned to listen to her smiles
and let the rest get a little messy
Especially on Sundays – J.Beamer

My children will probably never accuse me of doing it all, or even trying to, but the philosophy is marvelous—as are the chickens.  And I already have the messy down. 

The gift is a surprise, but the just-because thoughtfulness isn’t. 

 And that it arrived after one &#$% of a weekend, just when I needed it, doesn’t surprise me at all.

Thanks, Jill—for everything.

Love, Me

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*She liked David Bowie and I liked fairy tales.  We both liked Jim Henson.