“But I copied it off the board,” I cried as my father tried to help me with my homework.
“Linda,” my father said, “There’s no such word as “c-f-t-a.” My lower lip started to quiver. “But Daddy, the teacher wouldn’t put it on the board if there was no such word,” I said between hiccoughing gulps.
Putting his arm around me, my father said, “It’s okay, Dimple Face, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”
Feeling a little better, I summoned up the courage to explain my other concern. “What am I gonna do about my homework, Daddy?”
“Well, let’s look at this paper again.” I was encouraged. My daddy knew everything. It was difficult for him, though, because cfta wasn’t the only non-word on my paper. After eons of trying to figure it all out, I finally put away my work satisfied that since my father had helped me, all would be okay. Except it wasn’t. This same scenario played out for weeks until my mother finally stepped in.
“Linda, put this dress on for school today,” my mother said holding up my mint green dress with the ruffles.
“But Mommy, that’s my party dress,” I said a little confused. I wore the green ruffle dress only when we had company—or when we were company.
“Never mind,” my mother said, “you’ll wear it today. I’m picking you up from school after lunch and taking you to the eye doctor. Make sure you sit like a lady and don’t get your dress dirty,” she instructed in her stern “I’m not kidding” voice.
Now I was excited! Missing part of school, wearing my party dress, going out alone with my mother without any of my three siblings. This was gonna be a great day! “Hurry up,” my mother was saying. “We have to comb that mop of yours, and you haven’t had your breakfast yet. Get a move on.”
I felt like a princess when my mother came to get me. She entered my class at Arlington Elementary School and told Miss Margoline, “I’m here to get Linda.” I was very proud for my friends to see my mother take me out of school in my pretty party dress.
The Eye Examination
I sat in a big, black chair like at the barber shop, except there weren’t any straps for the razor, and the room was very dark. The doctor told me to cover one eye with a plastic thing that looked like a big flat lollypop. He instructed me to read the letters on a chart on the wall at the end of the room. It was really hard to do, and I was worried that the doctor would discover my secret. Except, it wasn’t that I didn’t know my letters; it was that they were so fuzzy. I was afraid to tell him about the fuzzy letters, though, so I decided to let him think I was stupid, which was true anyway.
Next, the doctor put a machine in front of my face that looked like a giant electronic fly with two tiny peep holes. He told me to read the letters on the chart again. This time, if I struggled because they were fuzzy, he changed the glass in front of the peep holes to make the letters clear. I thought this was a very good trick! Once the letters were clear, I knew I’d done a good job and was feeling like maybe I wasn’t stupid after all!
When we were finished with the fly machine, we went into the doctor’s office that had cases filled with glasses—fancy ones, plain ones, colored ones, slanty ones, round ones. Never before had I seen so many types of glasses. He picked out several small pair, looked at my mother and said, “Any of these would be good for her.”
Getting to Choose
“Which do you like, Linda?” my mother asked. I couldn’t believe it! She was going to let me pick the ones I wanted! I looked them over carefully. One pair was so plain; it had no color. The frames were the same as the glass. They looked like something a scientist in an old movie would wear. Then there was a pair with a pale pinkish-red frame, but they were nothing special either. The third pair, though, had blue and white stripes across the top of the frame, and the bottom was clear. It reminded me of the ocean. And blue was my favorite color.
I picked them up and announced, “I’ll take these!” The doctor put them on my face and turned the mirror for me to see. They were beautiful! I couldn’t stop looking at myself. “Oh Mommy, I looooove these,” I told her.
I could hardly wait the entire week to come back and get them. Again, we sat in the doctor’s office, and he put my new glasses on my face, adjusted the ear pieces and said, “Well, what do you think?”
“I can see very good,” I said, amazed that this was true. My mother paid him, and we left to get the car. As we stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, I could hardly believe the world that surrounded me. “Com’on,” my mother said, taking my hand when the light had turned green. But I was like a statue cemented to the corner of Charles and Sarataga Streets in Baltimore City. “Come on, Linda,” my mother repeated. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Mommy, I can see all the way across the street!”
It wasn’t until I was grown up and had my own children that I realized how hard not being aware of my nearsightedness must have been for my mom.
But wait, that’s not the end of the story.
That was a Friday. I had to wait two days before I would be able to wear my new glasses to school. It was gonna be so great to be able to see all the words correctly on the board. Maybe I’d get everything right now, and Daddy wouldn’t have to help me so much.
On Monday morning, I took my seat in the front row next to Jimmy Dickens. When Miss Margoline instructed us to copy our lessons off the board, I very proudly put on my beautiful ocean blue glasses.
“YIKES! FOUR EYES!” screamed Jimmy Dickens as his own eyes widened, his hands flew up, his body bent back, repelled as if a gargoyle had suddenly appeared.
After that day, I wore my glasses only when absolutely necessary and then in a most furtive way. I’ll never forget Jimmy Dickens.
Read more by Linda Miller.