(this is from 2019… the word was Glasses and I had 25′ to write something… this was the result)

I remember that morning, many years ago, when Frau Zimmermann, who taught German, asked me to switch desks. She wanted me to take a seat further back so that a troublemaker would have to sit closer to her and she could keep a close eye on him. I don’t remember who it was… I am guessing it was a boy, because the girls rarely made any trouble. I liked sitting close to the blackboard, the better to learn, or so I thought, but I grabbed my bag and things and shuffled a bunch of rows back to the second to last row of desks. The lesson continued and Ms. Zimmermann droned on. She called upon me to read something she had written on the blackboard. I replied that I could not be expected to read anything from this great of a distance. Frau Zimmermann felt differently and had me stand up and slowly walk forward, to determine how close I would have to be to the blackboard in order to read the words… well, apparently I had to be pretty close. She said that I had to go to the optometrist asap.

I relayed the message to my mom and that very afternoon we walked to the eye doctor. In those days one didn’t seem to make many appointments. One simply showed up and waited for one’s turn… My eyes were tested and we were told that I was short-sighted, meaning that I could see very well up close, but that my vision dropped off a cliff at about eight feet. I needed to wear glasses and I wasn’t happy about that. We picked out a frame for the lenses, something reasonable, inexpensive and pretty boring.

A few days later I went to the optometrist and picked up those tools called glasses, that I would have to carry around, balanced on my nose and ears, for the rest of my life. How crisp and clear my room looked when I arrived at home. Everything looked different! All those things I was so very familiar with suddenly had a new shape and a razor sharp appearance. I looked at my mom and declared that before that day I had never known that she had so many wrinkles. She said, give me those glasses, and mock-reached for them. We laughed and I told her she was beautiful with and without my glasses.

I remember thinking how unfair it was that everyone was supposed to have some sort of average vision… what if I was meant to look at everything close up, what if I was meant to paint miniatures, or become a jeweler… perhaps being short sighted was a very special ability that helped me to concentrate on what was right in front of my nose. But, I also loved playing basketball and so I began to wear glasses in seventh grade.

I wish I had kept every pair of glasses I ever bought. A few of them were very German looking. In case you didn’t know, Germans use glasses as a ray of sunshine under their often grey skies… Germans like to wear brightly colorful glasses. If you are in Milan or London or Paris and you see a man, or woman, dressed in black or very very dark grey clothes, but with bright red or blue glasses… you can be sure it is a German person. It has become a national identifier, like the mustache of a Turkish man…