By Deb Levy
About the Writer:
Deb Levy is a writer, graphic designer, mother-of-three and devotee of hip-hop dance.
My middle son was two years old when he ripped the umbilical cord. I was pregnant with boy #3 at the time, yet this rupture posed no harm to the fetus. Nor did it affect my relationship with him, the toddler. (Though I was really, really pissed when it happened.) What severed was the ephemeral connection to my former life when my son’s not-quite-nimble little hands snapped my sunglasses in half.
These glasses were truly special. Not an item of great monetary value (I picked them up for $10), but they were the embodiment of my post-college, pre-motherhood existence.
I remember well the day I bought them. I had recently started dating the man who would become my husband, and had met him and his friend for brunch. I’m sure this was after sleeping until at least 10am, having gone out with friends the night before. (A night out, I might add, that didn’t necessitate finding a babysitter, and then struggling to get kids fed, bathed and pajama-ed before said sitter arrived. But I digress.) The weekend sun shone as we strolled down Columbus Avenue in New York City, and a flea market on the corner of 76th Street caught our eye. We wandered lazily amongst the eclectic array of wares hailing from exotic locales, and China. What else did we have to do that day but wander lazily?
Displayed on one of the tables were hundreds of sunglasses with thick plastic frames of various hues and designs. One pair stood out from the rest, its green and yellow leopard skin pattern leaping out at me. I tried them on and they covered the bridge of my nose perfectly. They brought out my natural blonde highlights. The top of the frames curled up ever so slightly at the corners with a wink and a haughty flip of the hair. I believe these glasses actually purred. They were anything but subtle, making a statement that I had yet to define. They were perfect.
So perfect that I plunked down an extra $10 for a matching soft-sided case. (That case could never get lost in my bag, I reasoned.) Those glasses made me happy. I am not, nor have I ever been, fashion forward, so my newly purchased eyewear stood in stark contrast to the rest of my appearance. My mother affectionately termed them my ‘slut glasses.’ I don’t think she meant to imply that they made me look wanton, but perhaps frivolous and frisky. A bit like Holly Golightly meets Thelma and Louise. Like a twenty-something woman careening through Central Park on rollerblades, hailing cabs to corporate meetings, buying her own beer in dimly lit Bowery bars. The city was mine to discover and those glasses propelled me forward.
My slut glasses travelled the world – and eventually to the suburbs of New Jersey where my husband and I moved with our then 18-month-old. I wore them as I carpooled to preschool in a minivan. I wore them home from the hospital after delivering baby number two. (The baby who would one day wrench the temples from the hinges of my cherished shades.) I wore them to play dates and playgrounds, believing that they alone kept me from losing a hipper, more carefree, younger, less frizzy-haired part of myself. They connected me to a life I once had that was my own.
Until my preverbal toddler tried to communicate that he wanted to go to the park by bringing me my sunglasses. And in his excitement, he ripped them in half. He could tell that he had done something wrong as his little voice said, “uh oh.” It was as if a part of me died. I might as well invest in a wardrobe of velour tracksuits.
My husband seemed to intuitively understand what those glasses represented because that evening, he worked diligently on them with Krazy Glue. But they were irrevocably altered. Like the life I had led before. Gone.
So now I look out at a bright world through a different lens. I see wider and deeper. I see dangers lurking and opportunities for learning; what I had taken for granted is shiny and new. I see now through eyes that are getting older, yet also through eyes teeming with innocence. My vision has changed. And I think perhaps the woman I used to be isn’t gone, just differently adorned.
After all, the past isn’t something we can slip on and off. We can only glance at it wistfully, and thank it for leading us to where we are now.
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