Thursday, January 8, 2009

Seeing the Light

When I was 12, I couldn’t wait to grow up. I was thinking in terms of freedom, autonomy, and privilege, not near-sightedness, difficulty hearing, and general creakiness. How little we notice when we’re young!

I first realized I needed glasses when I was driving to the store and saw a small child ahead waiting by the side of the road. I hoped he wouldn’t decide to cross just as I reached him but I needn’t have worried. He was a mailbox.

I related this story to J the other day when we were comparing middle-aged notes. She confessed to having just the opposite problem. “I can tell the difference between a chickadee and a junco at 10 yards,” she said, “but I can’t see what’s right in front of me.” Then she gave me a for-instance.

One day a week, she cleans house for a client. She was waxing the furniture and noticed her dust rag was getting awfully wet. “It just dragged along every surface,” she said. It wasn’t until she went to put the can away that she realized why. She had dusted the entire house with pet repellent spray rather than Pledge. “The cans were the same color,” she explained as I started to laugh.

Things got worse as the week progressed. The very next morning, still sleepy and bleary-eyed, J reached into the cupboard for a packet of hot cocoa mix. She ripped it open, dumped the contents into a cup and added boiling water. The fumes from the instant chili mix made her eyes open right up. Another morning she took a jar of fruit off the shelf. She wondered why it was closed with a metal ring and a sealed lid, but she persisted in opening the jar and spooning the contents into a bowl.

Her first taste showed her her mistake. “You know those pickles you gave me in August?” she asked. I gasped.

“I ate half that jar for breakfast, anyway,” she confessed as I started to hoot.

Her husband came in on the last of our conversation. “You know,” he said to his wife, “I wish you’d take that blue tarp off the clothesline. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up and waved, thinking it was Pauline coming over to visit.”

I don’t wish for the same things I did when I was 12. Now I just wish I didn’t look so much like a large piece of blue plastic.