Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Four Eyes

When I was I was in third grade, I sat at the back of the room. I think it was autumn when I realized I couldn't read what was written on the board. The teacher told us to copy the work, and I had no idea what it was.
Mine were complete with rhinestones. Lovely!

I remember squinting, pulling one eye and the other, trying to make out the meaningless hieroglyphics that were scrawled. I remember the feeling of shame - I was going to fail the lesson, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Perhaps some teachers would have ignored the struggling student in the back. Wonderful Mrs. Laige, however, stepped in and told my mother I needed glasses.

A few days later I was taken to the eye doctor. I chose a horrible pair of pointed plastic frames (this was the sixties, so you can just imagine the horror) and was given my first pair of glasses. Spectacles. Glazing cheats.
You can see the original here at deviant net. This perfectly captures my world before glasses.

The first time I put on my glasses, the world rushed up to smack me with clear focus. I couldn't believe the difference. To go from a fuzzy universe which, as a child, I thought was simply the norm, to crystal clear vision was a revelation. I could read the board. I could see the expressions on other kids' faces as they talked. I was able to go to the movies. 

Those with perfect vision cannot, perhaps, understand that moment. In a split second, I was given a new life. Yes, that sounds melodramatic, and yet - it was true. Not being able to see properly is murder on a very shy young girl.

The third book in my Crown Phoenix series is seen from the perspective of an older girl who goes through the same thing. She is very poor, and her Edwardian world offers no nice Mrs. Laige, no rescue from the shadows that surround her.

To write from Lizzie's perspective was a joyful challenge. She had to guess at what was going on or rely on constant updates from her sister, Ninna. I couldn't cheat and tell what was happening on the other side of the room - Lizzie wasn't able to see it.

When she is finally presented with a pair of eyeglasses - glazing cheats - by a boy called Toby, it is a miracle for her. She can't believe that she is able to see what is an entirely new world. 

I love my shortsighted, bespectacled heroine, and I related to her more than any other character, perhaps because we both went through the same "Passage" - that miraculous journey from fuzzy darkness to clear vision.


Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

I want to read your books all the more now. What a great post. My vision is fine but both my parents wore or wear glasses so I suspect sooner or later it's coming.

Anonymous said...

I can almost understand where you're coming from with this. I say almost because I'm red-green colorblind. I can see red, sort of, and I can see green. Put them together and I ignore one or the other (usually the red) unless it's pointed out to me. But what I really wonder - and what I'll never know - is what do those colors look like to people with the proper amount of rods and cones in their eyes?

There's no glasses or procedures that can fix color blindness, but I can certainly emphathise with you and with your character before being "fixed."

Alison DeLuca said...

I wonder now if being shortsighted or having a certain kind of colorblindness adds another type of sense? I mean, in order to compensate for near vision, the brain develops other areas in a way that is different from the"norm," whatever that is.

You have made me ponder now! Might have to revisit this subject in the future.

jenny milchman said...

Wow, what a transformative moment. I think a lot of people will really connect.

Catherine Stine said...

Gorgeous cover!!!!!