When I was six years old my math skills suddenly took a steep tumble, so my parents whisked me off to the eye doctor who twiddled a bunch of knobs and eventually concluded that this L’il Squinter couldn’t see the blackboard. Unfortunately, instead of asking me to drink a glass of carrot juice every morning or just sit closer to the front of the class, he wrote me a prescription for some thick Coke-bottle glasses and sent me on my way.
Being the only kid in first grade who wore glasses was no fun. I was Four Eyes, Dr. Spectacles, and Blindy, all in one recess.
To make matters worse, they didn’t make too many glasses frames for kids in those days. Maybe it’s different now, but at the time the store only had one pair that fit me — a thick, red plastic set that had to be held around my head with a black elastic band. Yeah, it’s true: not only was I cursed with Blurry Eyes but I had a side case of Pin Head, too. It was embarrassing arriving to school looking like Steve Urkel, only without the spunk or sassiness.
Anyway, it didn’t take long for those glasses to become the bane of my existence.
I broke them about once a week.
I fell off someone’s back in the schoolyard, crashed into my sister running around the basement, and got pegged with snowballs on the way home from school. I ran into a fire pole on the playground, stepped on them getting out of bed, and left them sitting on couches and chairs around the house. Once I even broke them two days in a row. And it was the same story every time: I sheepishly appeared at dinner with my busted glasses on my face, thick wads of masking tape holding them together, and I sat through dinner until my parents very patiently took me back to the same glasses store later at night, to buy the same set of red, plastic frames, again and again and again.
Now, my most painful memory of busting up my specs came during a house league football / soccer game. Almost everyone I knew played football / soccer as a kid — getting some exercise by joining historical local franchises such as Shisko’s Produce and A&R Auto Body, Est 1956.
It was in my first and only season, in the middle of a big playoff game, when I unceremoniously took a well-booted ball right in the middle of my face. My glasses cracked into two pieces, I fell to the ground and started crying, and as the play raced on without a whistle, I slowly got my drippy self together and blindly made it off the field. I held half of my glasses in each hand and wore a big, red circle on my face from the ball, like someone had set a frying pan down on me, accidentally mistaking my round, childlike features for a tightly-coiled stove burner.
Well, I got to the sidelines and was met with bad news. Basically, the coach wouldn’t let me off the field. See, the problem was that our team was already short players and if I went off we’d be disqualified. Remember — this was the playoffs here. A free pizza party and a round of root beer floats was on the line. Nobody wanted the game to end.
So — completely blind, tears in my eyes, my bright red, well-smacked face on display for all to see, I stood in the corner of the field for the rest of the game, somehow helping our team avoid disqualification as well as victory.
It was tough.
I remember the only thing that got me through that terrible ordeal was my mom coming over and setting up a lawn chair beside me, popping open an old, Tupperware container, and giving me all the orange slices I wanted from the halftime stash.
And let me tell you, I loved me some half-time orange slices. They were like sweet, liquid energy, filling me with sugar and pep and turbo-charging me for the second half.
Now, my showing that day was pathetic and humiliating, I don’t deny that. And I’m sad to report that it finally forced me to hang up the cleats for good, retiring forever from the game I knew mildly.
But I still remember those orange slices, and my mom generously thiefing the entire container so I could make it through the game. So thanks, mom. And thanks, half-time orange slices. Because both of you are fully and completely