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20/20

by Lindsay Denton

I first realized there might be something wrong with my vision in sixth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, had switched up the seating chart, and I ended up on the back row next to a black-haired boy named Alan. Boys still had cooties in those days, but I had to breach the taboo when I noticed something odd. Mrs. Bullock was standing at the chalkboard, her wrist moving smoothly, producing her signature curlicue script, except…

“Is the chalk broken?” I hissed. Alan looked at me blankly. “The chalk!” I said. “There’s nothing coming out of it!” Alan continued to stare. Looking back, I’m not sure if he was afraid of my cooties or if he just thought I was stupid.

Finally, he said, “Uh, the chalk is fine.” He turned towards the front with an eye-roll. I followed suit, staring intently at the blank green board and wondering if I was the victim of an elaborate prank the rest of the class was somehow in on.

I waited for the teacher to sit at her desk before timidly making my way to the front of the room. Several rows up, thin white lines appeared on the board. A few steps further and the lines twisted themselves into legible script. I was unnerved. Moments later, an understanding Mrs. Bullock switched me to the front row.

I didn’t think much of the incident until a couple weeks later when it was time for school-wide vision screening. I was nervous as I stood in line waiting for my turn to read off the pyramid of letters. I took the proffered cardboard circle, held it over my right eye, toed the line and said, “E.”

“Good,” the man said. “How far down can you go?”

I hesitated, my eye trying to make sense of the fuzzy tangle of black shapes. “Well, the next line looks like P and… S?”

He frowned.

Next thing I knew, I was at the end of another line–the line for the kids who failed the screening. I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I watched the rest of my peers troop back to the classroom.

A few weeks later, my mom set up an eye appointment for me. I still remember trying on my glasses for the first time. I stood in the optometrist’s office and glanced out the window at an adjacent empty lot.

“There are clods of dirt and tiny little rocks all over the ground!” I exclaimed. “And individual leaves on the trees!” It was surreal–I’d had no idea what I was missing. There was a whole new layer of definition to the world that I’d been completely ignorant of.

#

There are times when I take off my glasses at night as my husband drives. Every light we pass is a swollen, twelve-pointed sphere with the symmetry of a snowflake. I’m surrounded by colorful globes springing from taillights, stoplights, and streetlights. I feel blind, but warmed.

I love sharp, crisp lines of black and white – to see things as they are. But sometimes, surrounded by starkness, I miss the seamlessness of blurred outlines and swirling shades of grey.

One of my favorite things each holiday season is to take out my contacts and sit in the dark in front of our lit Christmas tree. Each tiny colored bulb swells into a large, brilliant orb, the ethereal spheres hung like ornaments in the air. There is something transcendently beautiful about the softness of it.

God is in the details, they say, and I’ve seen the truth of that with both physical and spiritual eyes. But God is also in a blanket of muffling snow, in a muted grey sky, in the creamy bokeh behind a sharply focused image.

Becoming an adult, losing childhood naiveté, has been refreshing in some ways, like putting on a pair of glasses I didn’t know I needed. Still, though, I sometimes miss going through life in a rosy haze, seeing the world without its sharp angles or harsh contrasts, each pinprick of light something delicate, gauzy, beautiful.

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