DIARY OF A WISE WOMAN WHOSE DOGGED DETERMINATION AND ABILITY TO BEAR BURDENS SETS HER APART FROM…WELL, PRACTICALLY NO OTHER WOMAN WHO’S SURVIVED CHILDHOOD, ADULTHOOD, MOTHERHOOD, WIFEHOOD, NEIGHBORHOODS AND WORKPLACEHOOD—WHICH I’M SURE ISN’T EVEN A WORD.
When I was about nine years old, I began to chronicle my life, writing chapters for each awesome and stunning event as it transpired. Nowadays, it might have been a best seller. I mean, who could resist a book with an entire chapter devoted to “Glasses”? That covered the time when I was ten and a school-sponsored eye test discovered my eyesight was definitely problematic. A subsequent diagnosis revealed I was near-sighted and had astigmatism. Glasses were prescribed to remedy the condition, and for me, it was an episode worthy of an entire chapter in my autobiography, along with enthralling accounts titled “Second Grade”. “Our Cat Midge”. “The Time I Joined in Teasing a Classmate and Hated Myself for It”. “Third Grade: Gosh, I Miss Second Grade!” “I Follow the Lord in Baptism.” And then, of course, “Glasses”.
I was so excited that I had been prescribed eyewear I figured everyone I encountered would share my enthusiasm. Of course they did not, and in fact, most of those within my circle of family and acquaintances did not even notice. I would preen, grin, blink wildly behind those lenses and fondle the frames to call attention to this new addition to my face. Beyond the occasional, “Oh, look, it’s Four Eyes” from cousins around my age, it soon became obvious that for anyone but me and I suppose my parents, who had to pay for them, glasses were not a pivotal moment in my existence. “Glasses” became one of the shorter chapters in my life story.
Another lesson I learned was that those who cared about me were few and far between. Since my autobiography generated so little interest, I took to writing the story of a spunky little orphan girl in the wild, wild west and the challenges she faced on stage coach rides, eluding bad guys on horseback, and chewing wax. Yes, chewing wax, which in my endless pursuit of knowledge I learned was what people did prior to the advent of chewing gum. Later on, I became aware of chewing tobacco, but of course my spunky-yet-righteous heroine would have disdained popping a wad of tobacco leaves in her mouth and chomping away. Don’t know if the word “yucky” had reached the lexicon back in those days, but I’m sure the term “ladylike” was well established by then. Remember “Godey’s Lady’s Book”? It set the standard for refined women of the era. Since the editor’s model was Queen Victoria, it follows that females chewing tobacco would have been greeted with horror and immediately ostracized from the social circles to which they aspired.
Thus it was that my little orphan navigating the wilds of the west popped wax into her mouth rather than a chaw of hoobastank, as the tobacco was also known. Other details of her life were carefully recorded in my narrative, but I confess that to this day, I do not recall her name.