I was fitted for my first pair of glasses one month shy of my ninth birthday. My teachers were tipped off to my nearsightedness when I sat in the front of the room, squinted and still couldn’t make out what was on the board. The definitive test came at home, after Mom must have been given a report about how I might need glasses. She held a newspaper up about fifteen feet from me, and I said yes, it was all pretty much a blur.
It’s not like I knew any different – I thought fuzzy and blurry was how the world naturally presented itself. These were part of its charm, not defects to be corrected. Silly me. Mom made an appointment with an optometrist downtown – I don’t think any of the kids were wearing glasses yet, and Mom wasn’t a big fan of any kind of doctors in the first place. The trek was a new experience for both of us.
The eye exam was a piece of cake – far less intimidating than MD visits, and not nearly as terrifying as a dentist appointment. I do not have fond childhood memories of our dentist. Getting cavities drilled out and filled with mercury amalgams was unpleasant enough for a six-year-old without being ordered to “stop crying or I’ll REALLY give you something to cry about.” Jerk. Just another instance of the little traumas growing up that I don’t think any kid ever really forgets. They survive, of course, and make the most of their pain, but memories of the abuse never seem to fade.
Back to eyes – the optometrist writes up a script for corrective lenses. We go to the optician counter to get measured, pick out some lovely frames (a turtle shell pattern, medium brown), then schedule a time to make a second journey to pick up the glasses in two weeks. (I’m still blown away when an eyeglasses shop tells me they can make my glasses in about an hour.)
Two weeks later we return for the glasses. The optician brings them out and puts them on me. She asks, “how do they feel?” But the question doesn’t register at all – I’m too busy being amazed by just how sharp and clear everything looks! It’s not unlike the difference you experience once you’ve switched from regular definition television to high-definition: the TV seemed just fine before, but the new TV makes you realize just how much clarity and detail you had been missing. Seeing through the glasses with my eight year old eyes was like this: the world was just fine before, and the way it looked to me was the way I was used to seeing it. But now – WOW! Is this what it looks like? Was it always this sharp, this clear? The world changed in a single instant, and I could no longer believe that it was a fuzzy, blurry place.