It happened around the end of my 3rd grade year, although I held off as long as humanly possible. You see, I didn’t want to be the kid with glasses. On the elementary school coolness scale, wearing glasses warranted the distinct possibility of being called Four Eyes, which is nothing short of haunting to a nine-year-old.
And witty comebacks already weren’t my strong suit when it came to deflecting general commentary about my unfortunately-fortunate last name, MacDonald.
“Hey Cara, are you related to the Hamburglar?”
My cheeks would grow a deep shade of red, vying to match the my hair’s auburn counterpart, as I would try and explain that our last name had an “a” in it – we’re Scottish. We don’t make french fries. It’s different! My father’s favorite phrase, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” echoed in my mind, although I didn’t dare say the word “crap” aloud – wasn’t that a bad word only grown-ups were allowed to use?
(Moral absolutes really worked well for my oldest child self).
And then there was the time I made the mistake of wearing a pair of new-to-me Guess overalls to school one day; over and over again the chorus echoed in my general direction, Old MacDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o!
Barring actual events of tragic nature, if the act of lament can find its way into a child’s life, I lived the mournful song that day: despite wearing the label that signified utter coolness, I wasn’t exactly at the top of the social ladder totem pole.
So you can see why wearing glasses was not high on my To Do list. I didn’t want to have bad eyes, just as I didn’t want to realize that friends sometimes made you sad, and that Daddy wasn’t as invincible as I thought him to be. I continued to fake it for awhile – until I couldn’t quite see the board, and squinting and opening wide my eyes, my teacher, Mrs. Tichenor, sent a note home to my mom. Man, I’d liked her until that point!
But then the day came: we all packed into the lustful Colt Vista for a First Time Ever trip to the eye doctor. Mom accidentally wrote down the wrong address, so rain pounding, we drove in circles over and over again, confused as to why the ophthalmologist would house his practice in a haunted old mansion. No way I’m going into that place, we’d said. He’s probably going to harvest our eyeballs in dirty glass jars! Yeah, yeah! We MacDonald kids certainly weren’t lacking for imagination.
But I remember Mom’s frustration.
I remember the pounding rain and the circles we drove and the house that haunted, over and over again. And I remember seeing the sign, just a block or two down. How many times would I let her circle the block before the rightness of my own moral compass set in?
“We just passed it,” I finally whispered.
She hadn’t even heard me. Screams of the evil eye doctor’s plan for our poor and innocent corneas won out over my mumbled words.
“It’s right there,” I said a little louder, pointing out the window to the Salem Eye Clinic.
And just like that, the journey in the rain ended; the blinker clicked to the right, we turned into the small parking lot, the windshield wipers ceased to fly.
I was about to officially become Four Eyes.
And really, that’s about where the mournful tale ends. Eventually I began to accept that my eyes were just part and parcel of the Cara Package; I’d roll my eyes if Four Eyes was uttered, just as I learned to sing along louder, better when Old MacDonald came my way.
But really, if there’s one thing I’ve learned after sporting glasses and contacts for 25 years now, it’s that I’m not necessarily good at cleaning the lenses. I never did learn to keep a Kleenex in my back pack, or some spray cleaner in the bathroom cabinet. Often times it’s not until I’m squinting my eyes in frustration again, wondering why my eyes are still changing and growing “badder” in years that I realize how dirty the lenses are.
They’ll be covered in smudges and little flecks of dust and dirt; I cease to see clearly through that which is supposed to help me clearly navigate the path before me.
So it’s then that I trudge up the stairs to the HBH’s bathroom drawer – I find his cleaner and his wipes, and rubbing them to clearness, I’m a little bit amazed all over again at the renewed clarity.
Really, I think it’s the same way for a lot of us: we don’t realize how dirty our lenses are, how desperately they’re in need of a cleaning. And I don’t write this in a moralistic, And now you need to come to Jesus sort of way, even if He is what gives you clarity and truth.
But I do think there are practices in our lives we can implement that help us see more clearly, that help us operate more smoothly, that give us renewed LIFE. I think about the refueling I receive when I sit down with a friend over margaritas and just-right salty chips, just as when, with unified voice around me, together we echo Thanks be to God on a Sunday morning. I know my marriage feels more on track and less bumpy when we find the balance in our social calendar, in nights out and nights in, in time together and time on our own. And I know I feel more holistically myself when I have the time to exercise and to write, to read and to converse.
I’m still learning, though. My glasses still tend to get dirty – but I suppose, like today’s reflection, that’s a good thing. Because it provides for Story and for Musings, and maybe, just maybe, for a little bit of whimsy as well.
What about you? What Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing sometimes still haunt you? And, more importantly (and all snarky snark aside), what “cleaning” gives you life?