Monday, December 17, 2007

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle is a wonderful memoir. I was going to stay up all night to finish it, but Jason suggested I go to sleep around 1:30 and save some of the book for today. Here is an excerpt:

Emerson had its very own nurse who gave the three of us ear and eye exams, our first ever. I aced the tests -- "Eagle eyes and elephant ears," the nurse said -- but Lori struggled trying to read the eye chart. The nurse declared her severely shortsighted and sent Mom a note saying she needed glasses.

"Nosiree," Mom said. She didn't approve of glasses. If you had weak eyes, Mom believed, they needed exercise to get strong. The way she saw it, glasses were like crutches. They prevented people with feeble eyes from learning to see the world on their own. She said people had been trying to get her to wear glasses for years, and she had refused. But the nurse sent another note saying Lori couldn't attend Emerson unless she wore glasses, and the school would pay for them, so Mom gave in.

When the glasses were ready, we all went down to the optometrist. The lenses were so thick they made Lori's eyes look big and bugged out, like fish eyes. She kept swiveling her head around and up and down.

"What's the matter?" I asked. Instead of answering, Lori ran outside. I followed her. She was standing in the parking lot, gazing in awe at the trees, the houses, and the office buildings behind them.

"You see that tree over there?" she said, pointing at a sycamore about a hundred feet away. I nodded.

"I can not only see that tree, I can see the individual leaves on it." She looked at me triumphantly. "Can you see them?"

I nodded.

She didn't seem to believe me. "The individual leaves? I mean, not just the branches but each little leaf? I nodded. Lori looked at me and burst into tears.


She started compulsively drawing and painting all the wondrous things she was discovering, like the way each curved tile on Emerson's roof cast its own curved shadow on the tile below, and the way the setting sun painted the underbellies of the clouds pink but left the piled-up tops purple.

Not long after Lori got her glasses, she decided she wanted to be an artist, like Mom.

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