Glasses

[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Glasses are made up of two parts: a pair of lenses and a frame. Frames get most of our attention—they have color, style, and so, like watches, they help us make statements about ourselves. But only lenses improve our sight, and it is the frame’s job to hold them in front of our eyes. This is an honorable job, like Atlas bearing the weight of the world.

Lenses look like flattened ice cubes, melted enough to be translucent. Cold and dull, they seem impersonal. But the task they perform makes them a vital part of our humanity. Our eyes were designed to welcome in the light of the world, and since we cannot see anything in the dark—not Whitman’s food bowl on the ground, not the third step on the way downstairs, not the wasp sitting in the sink—we need light to see.

But not all eyes are hospitable to light. It’s not so much that they hate their guest, although that can happen, but that the eye is socially ill-prepared. When the light shares serious, personal ambitions, the eye laughs. When the light delivers a joke with force, the eye nods his head, and says, “Yes. Yes, it’s true.” Lenses are a liaison between light and eye. Knowing both people very well, lenses take light’s message and bend it, stretch it, and direct it, while staying faithful to the original, so to present it to the eye in a way it can understand.

Glasses can help with simple tasks, like reading a book, or complex tasks, like copying notes from the whiteboard all the way at the front of the class into your notebook on your desk. These complex ones have different spots on the lenses to help with different tasks. I have a pair of these.

Peering downward, having my eyes look through the bottom third of my lenses, is how I work on my computer, how I read Eliot’s poetry, and how I write in my journal. When you hand me work you’ve done in school, and you see me lift my chin and cast my eyes downward, this is not for any reason other than my lenses require me to do so.

For your sporting events, band concerts, theatre performances, or whatever else you would like to be a part of, I will have my chin tucked into my neck, and my eye balanced in the top third of my lens, which is where I am able to see far. In that way, I’ll see your foot’s soft push of the soccer ball as you prepare to shoot, I’ll see your steady hand on top of the violin, and also your nervous knuckles clenched in your jacket pocket as you perform on stage.

I almost never clean my glasses, despite Mom’s routine encouragement. Even right now, revising this paragraph, my eyesight is obstructed by fingerprint smudges, water droplets, and some pet hair. I’m too present-minded to pause any activity throughout the day just to clean my glasses. And yet, without regular cleaning, my vision cannot be clear, cannot be trusted.

Taking my glasses off makes the world raw, bare, and blurred. But keeping them on makes life sharp and seen, with noticeable blind spots.