Wednesday, December 03, 2003


In 1969 I made my first trip to the optometrist because the school nurse at St. Andrew's had determined my vision needed correction.

Dr. Shulman was the family eye doctor with an office on Huntington Avenue in Brigham Circle. It was right next to Staples (long before the office superstore chain), which was the local stationery store that sold games and toys. I bought all my models with airplane glue and paint-by-numbers sets from Staples. I remember getting a Batmobile model and a super-heroes velvet paint-by-numbers at Staples one Saturday afternoon!

My Mother wore glasses all my life. Here's a picture of me and her in 1965:

My Mother also smoked my entire life and this picture actually shows her cigarette more clearly than her glasses!

Anyway, my previous visits to Dr. Shulman's office had been with my Mother when she needed a new pair of glasses or an adjustment. She always reminded us that the receptionist was our aunt's sister. She was my father's brother's wife's sister, so she was really no relation to me at all; but, my Mother valued connections of all sort, no matter how vague or distant.

One Friday afternoon I left school and took the trolley to Brigham Circle for my first visit to the eye doctor. Wire-rimmed glasses were the newest rage in glasses, and I selected a pair that were sort of hip. They weren't round like John Lennon's, but they were as close to round as I was going to get when combining my Mother's meager budget with Dr. Shulman's charity.

It took some time for me to get used to seeing the world so clearly. I was almost dizzy from the clarity. The red brick and white mortar of the Farragut School across from Dr. Shulman's office was crystal clear and I could make out the definition of each individual bar in the surrounding cast-iron fence. The orange trolley-cars were bright orange. Walking down the street was almost difficult both because of the vertigo and my amazement at the clarity of it all!

I guess this is why I got them on a Friday! So I would have the weekend to get used to them!

I still have those glasses, and if they would fit I would have them fitted with my current prescription.

On Monday morning, Sister Theresa Ann (yes, a nun in the sixties with a woman's name), made certain to point out to everyone that I was wearing glasses. Damn, we hadn't even had our religion class yet and I was already feeling bad. I was the butt of all the jokes that day, and I made certain to take the glasses off for recess and the walk home.

I quickly got used to putting them on for movies and television and school; but after I'd forgotten them here and there a half-dozen times, I took Dr. Shulman's advice and just wore them all the time.

I learned to clean them and care for them and repair them myself with paper clips and the such. When I got new glasses I always kept these safe. I didn't know I would be writing about them and taking a picture of them in 2003, but I always held on to them. These eyeglasses have lived in seven American cities, and at two addresses in London. These eyeglasses have traveled (off my face) more than most Americans travel in their lifetime. I can't believe I still have them. Stranger than having my original pair of eyeglasses, is that I always know exactly where to find them. Seeing them makes me feel a bit old.

In the mid-nineties, I shared an apartment with my brother Stephan and I introduced him to the fine art of collecting art. Together we purchased a series of original drawing, twenty drawings of eyeglasses. They were all different, but all of the same pair of eyeglasses. My brother still has them in a drawer somewhere. I wish I had one to hang with my collection.

I hadn't thought of those eyeglasses or drawings in a long time until today when I got my first pair of bifocals. Yup! It's happened: bifocals. Almost thirty-five years after my first pair of eyeglasses made me dizzy and trippy, I am trying to get used to wearing glasses that work one way when I look up and another way when I look down.

If I turn too quickly, the entire world looks like a fishbowl. When I walk, I sometimes get a touch of vertigo; but when I try to read, I can see the print! I don't have to remove my glasses to read! It's almost as thrilling as the bricks of Farragut School!

I guess this means I'm getting old and the best part is the memories and mementos! I have my original pair of glasses and it's only at times like this that I appreciate how wonderful that really is!