Memories of the ol’ Four-Eyes

web-emily-glasses.jpgI didn’t really want to take Emily to the optometrist.

Maybe I was in denial, but she seemed fine to me. Her dad insisted she wasn’t seeing well, though, and so I took her last week.

She wasn’t happy about it, and neither was I.

She breezed through the glaucoma air-puffs much better than I do — it always takes ten tries and then they just give up. She seemed uncertain on the blind spot tests, but managed well for a nine-year-old who was obediently doing what she was told, even if she didn’t want to.

The exam itself was harder, as she hesitated on every choice between 1 and 2, better or worse. I sat quietly, not speaking for her or urging her to decide. This was her moment.

I was also nine years old when I got my glasses. My dad had come to school one day and noticed me walking up to the board to copy problems. I remember picking up my first pair from TSO and being astonished — birds sit on telephone wires! Signs have more than just the big pictures — they say stuff!

My happy view of the world crashed quickly. On the bus the next morning, I no more stepped into the aisle when someone shouted, “Four eyes!”

Being a shy and emotional girl, I immediately sat down and started crying. The day would get worse, boys stealing the glasses from me, the sweaty slide of plastic frames down my nose at recess, the pinch behind my ears. None of this seemed worth not having to walk to the board anymore. I vowed to lose or break the crummy things.

But we were poor, and glasses were expensive, and I feared the wrath of my parents if nothing else. So I learned, for the next five years until I got contacts, to hunker down and endure. I hated the way I looked. I clearly recall the day in seventh grade when I read a book that said, “No one should wear long hair and glasses!” I grabbed handfuls of my waist-length hair and yanked hard, as if I could tear it out. No wonder boys didn’t like me! I felt endless jealousy of glasses-free girls. So I read and studied and kept to myself.

Sitting in an optometrist’s office as the doctor rattled off the news was harrowing for me. Emily got her pale blue frames and we immediately bought her a super cute glasses case to store them — turns out she only needs them for distances and will actually see better without them up close and on the computer.

I tried to breathe easier. Even though I know more children wear glasses now, and teasing is something we all have to learn to manage, I still want to protect her as long as I can. All of us parents want our children’s lives to be better than our own, and this was one thing I couldn’t stop from happening — her genes being half mine. But you can bet I’ll be watching her closely for any signs of upset two weeks from now when school starts. And I won’t ignore any withdrawal she might go through. We remind her how cute she looks, how smart and fun — and it’s true. But I worry about her, and I can’t help it.

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