Monday, November 27, 2017


Neighbors,  Part II. THE GLASSES

Image result for child in thick glasses 1930s

According to Miss Bobbie, one of the two little boys next door had been born “afflicted,”  Southern then-vernacular for any problem acquired or developed surrounding a child’s birth, and it could also apply to having any lasting condition resulting from any of the usual childhood diseases.   Little Bobby was just “a bit slow in his ways,” as she told his story, and had very poor eyesight, requiring stronger and stronger glasses as he grew older.   He didn’t do well in his first couple of years of school, but did learn to read just enough to get by. He didn’t attend much past third grade, when his grasp of arithmetic and geography had been the cause of “failing him” twice, so that he was head-taller than his classmates.  And so he stayed at home. 

  In Miss Bobbie’s  words, “He made a BIG man.”  On up into his thirties, he’d walk all over town with his Mama while she sold her Avon, and he’d sit on your steps or in your porch swing if you didn’t have screen.   You could track what time Miss Emma would be at your house by looking across and seeing what house where Bobby was sitting, looking at the birds.

He’d sit in the sun or shade of the porch, slowly moving the glider with gentle movements, and holding her furled “parasol,” which was a big black umbrella that she took from his hand and snapped open each time she came out the customer’s door, bearing it aloft to ward off the sun until she reached the next stop---a geometric little sidewalk journey like stitching one of those squared-off Greek-key patterns onto a dresser scarf---to the next house, just forty steps away.

Image result for old green glider on porch
He, in exchange for the parasol, would accept her little Avon suitcase of wares, dwarfed to child size by his enormous soft hands, and he’d carry it meekly down sidewalk after sidewalk, handing it back in the wordless parasol-snap moment of exchange at the steps.  When School was “out,” or in the later afternoons, he usually had an entourage of two or three of the little neighbor kids.

 Children loved him, that simple shining soul, so soft spoken and shy.  They’d show him things, things from their grimy pockets, or bird nests or a mended pocket-knife, and he’d give them solemn consideration through the ever-thickening lenses, murmuring little comments and answers in that eternal language of small boys and their treasures. 

I can still hear Miss Bobbie’s Alabama voice right now, “ . . .and they’d show him therr pocket-bobs, and he’d look ‘em over. . .”     The kids eagerly followed him from front porch to side-steps to an old glider with an awning, as his Mama made her way around the block with him moving gently in her wake.  Bobby was always given first choice of seating wherever they alit, easing his way onto the steps or into the swing with a soft sigh as he sat, and they all jostled a bit to capture the best spot for his attention.  And no matter whose porch or yard they were all occupying, they were as accepted as the breeze, because Bobby was there, and nobody ever acted up when he was so unheedingly in charge.

And so I’ve had this small pair of oh-so-thick glasses for almost thirty years, laid onto the top shelf with all the old cameras and spy-glasses and belt buckles and old black-and-white family pictures with names on the back lest we forget.   The case is unconscionably dusty, as is everything on that last-to-be tended shelf, with the passing seasons of months and years.   They lie in that napped blue velvet, just as his little-boy hands snapped shut the small hard clamshell for that last time when the next, stronger pair was required. 

These are a lasting treasure to me, as would be a Grandfather’s watch or a Great Aunt’s lavalier, though I never knew the owner save through the stories and the forever place that sweet, never-met young man occupies in my heart. 


Caro said...

I've always had that same strong feeling as you do about them. I remember living in that house and when I first found those glasses in the cedar chest. I'm glad you've gotten to tell his story and that he can still live on!

NanaDiana said...

What a wonderful story of a softer, simpler time. A time when people accepted and treasured those that were different than expected....a time that people loved others in spite of diminished capacity. We had such a boy/man in our family and we all loved him dearly. He farmed and was wonderful and gentle with the animals.
I hope you have a lovely week and thanks for this precious story. xo Diana

Chronica Domus said...

A charming memento of a boy whose story you tell so well. Trough your carefully crafted words his spirit continues to live on. For this reason I'm glad you are the caretaker of his cherished spectacles.

Such items would likely be discarded in today's throwaway society of disposable goods. Perhaps the quality of frames has diminished over the years for I often notice older items are manufactured to far higher standards than today. I still own a pair of spectacles that are at least 25 years old. Newer models, alas, last no longer than a year or two at best.

Susie said...

Thank you for this story. I knew a fellow like that. Actually he was in my 1st grade class...then stayed 3 years in each class till he was 16 and could leave school...the way in the olden days. He rides a scooter around town and is the sweetest person. He has endured many teasing all his life, I always treated him as my friend and still do. Blessings to you, xoxo, Susie

Kim S. said...

Lovely post about kindness. The kindness shown to Bobby by the other children and the kindness you showed by treasuring the story and telling it to us.