Looking back on my life in glasses

I was in fourth grade when fate joined me with prescription glasses.

I was sitting in the last row of the classroom, as far from the blackboard and teacher as possible. This wasn’t necessarily my choice; although I tend to be a backbencher by nature, the fact that my last name begins with “W” generally resulted in a spot in the back of every classroom with my bottom-of-the-alphabet compadres.

(I would imagine, what with all of the political correctness these days, the “Ws” are no longer exclusively relegated to the back of the class. But I digress …)

Something new was in the works that day: A class project was on the pull-down screen in front of the blackboard, and the teacher took turns ensuring we were engaged/awake by randomly calling on us to read portions of the assignment.

Reading wasn’t a problem for me, as you can probably imagine from my line of work, and soon it was my turn. Immediately, I began stumbling over one word after another.

First, I was frustrated. Then I was embarrassed. Then I was silent.

Maybe the teacher saw me squinting. Maybe she had a hunch. But in what presumably was an attempt to help, she methodically moved me up one seat in the row, and then another, and then another, as I continued to stumble over the words.

Now, I have to admit that by the time I was temporarily seated in the front row — having displaced four or five chuckling classmates along the way — my reading difficulty was more a function of water in my eyes than my inability to see the screen.

Regardless, the teacher sent home a note suggesting my parents have my eyesight checked out.

Soon thereafter, I was selecting my first set of prescription glasses from among the five or so “youth” options available at Duling Optical in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Those black horn-rimmed beauties went through a lot with me — touch football games, Little League baseball, my first (and last) junior high dance, lots of good and some less-than-good grades, and the usual other collection of school-age fun.

I’ve worn glasses every day since, with 12 or so months off for contacts my first year in college — I wanted to make a good impression, I suppose, as if wearing glasses was really a life-changing negative.

It turned out the original “hard” contacts, combined with the wind and cold of Chicago mornings, just weren’t for me.

Every five or so years since, I’ve wound up with either a new set of frames, lenses or — pocketbook willing — both.

And that’s a long-winded way of explaining why my column picture looks different today. Maybe you noticed; maybe you didn’t.

The photo needed to be changed anyway. A few months ago, someone recognized me in a restaurant and suggested I didn’t look like myself.

“Your hair looks a lot whiter in person than it is in the magazine,” she told me, simply stating the obvious.

So now I will gaze out at you with whiter hair, a lighter beard and a new set of glasses.

I can see a lot better with these glasses, too, so it should be easier for me to connect with you now that I’ll be able to see more clearly if you’re wearing glasses or not.

TO SEE THE PROGRESSION of Rick Wamre’s frame fashion since elementary, search: glasses.