I reckon God was having a laugh the day I came into existence…
He took one look at the two imperfect halves of my DNA strand and just started to chuckle as he knit it all together into a double helix a zillion miles long. I reckon he said something like, “Oh, dear…”
Reading my code, He would know I would be graced with fine hair, neither straight nor curly, that was forever a mess of tangles. I would have a cowlick and a widow’s peak in an era when every girl wanted Marcia Brady’s hair: Dead straight, thick, and with a mathematically precise center parting.
In that code, He saw a tiny brown mole beneath my right nostril which would increase in size with each year of my life, lending my face a decidedly asymmetric look and a bit of Greta Garbo “worldly wiseness” that would be way beyond my years. Looking like Greta Garbo at age 9 was not comfortable, trust me. As I entered my 30’s the mole would take on a life of its own as it began to sprout black, wiry hair, lucky me! Once the hairs appeared, its days were numbered. Today, in its place stands a very expensive scar that I happily bear. (Anything but the MOLE!)
God would have seen the cleft in my chin, deep enough to cast a shadow. It’s not quite Kirk Douglas deep, but how I envied my sister’s smooth chin! But with a child this stubborn, perhaps it was my most fitting attribute.
As if all this potential for character building were not enough, I was also blessed with extreme hyperopia (far-sightedness). Yay. When I was 2 months old, one of my older siblings carried Chicken Pox home from school, and, thanks to possible febrile brain damage (which, by the way, would explain A LOT – ha!), I was left with a “lazy” right eye with little hope for improvement, and a clubbed right foot that necessitated the wearing of special shoes and a bar brace for the first few years of my life. Every time I wear a pair of heels (which I do A LOT), I silently thank my mother for her perseverance in forcing me to wear that brace. I understand I was a holy terror who reduced a wooden playpen to sawdust on account of it.
Thanks in large part to the soda-bottle glasses I wore from 18 months onward, I lived a lot in my own reality bubble, which, as often as not, bore little resemblance to the world as everyone else saw it. My glasses were forever in some state of surgical tape repair. I was clumsy. By some weird miracle, I could fall and scrape both lenses without touching my nose. The glasses were isolating. Children, at least in the era of my childhood, were unkind to a child with glasses. I was a four-eyed freak. That was something I understood very clearly indeed.
Yes, I was a proper ugly duckling Forrest Gump of a child with atrocious penmanship but outstanding language skills. I excelled at art and music, but was possibly the sloppiest and least organized child on the planet, forever in trouble with the teachers for lack of homework. And I hated math. Hated!
So, with all these cards in my proverbial hand, now you know why God would have said “Oh, dear…” when He looked at my DNA. His next line might have been, “She’s going to have plenty of character, that one.”
Oh, I’m a character, alright.
In retrospect, crazy as it sounds, I am not entirely sure I would change anything really. My evil hair has taught me that I shall never, ever be able to conform to the crowd, try as I may. Therefore, break loose and find your own niche. March to your own hairy drummer.
My mole? Some would call it a “beauty mark.” It was not beautiful, trust me. Still, my odd looks placed me outside of the inner circle at school, and this was not a bad thing in the long run. Think of the trouble I avoided! (I got into enough as it was.. ha!) And though I longed for acceptance, I am grateful for the imagination that sprang from some degree of social isolation. I sought solace and escape in music, books and in writing. When would I have had time for that if I had fit in?
As it happens, I did find acceptance among the artsy crowd in high school, so all was not lost. I was never going to be class president, but I did have many loyal friends, some of whom actually follow this blog, can you believe? 🙂
The glasses. Hmm. I am grateful to have lived in a country where eyecare was possible. After 2 Lasik surgeries, I still wear contacts and must additionally wear one set of glasses for the computer and another for reading, but it’s not the end of the world. Having poor vision has helped me value the vision that I DO have.
Last year, my youngest grandson got his first pair of glasses – blue, round Lego glasses. They are the cutest things you have ever seen and he looks adorable in them. He doesn’t feel the least bit self-conscious about wearing them. He is a confident, happy child who fits in everywhere. He is liked by his classmates, universally loved and adored.
Are we more enlightened these days? Perhaps.
The summer of my 12th year, I saved my babysitting money for my first set of contact lenses. Mom matched me penny for penny, and together we put an end to the soda bottle glasses. My first week wearing contacts, I stepped out of my self-imposed reality bubble and joined some kids in the neighbourhood playing kickball. When we finished the game, I was simply amazed nobody had even noticed I was glasses-free for the first time in my life.
Here I am, 36 years later, and it occurs to me that the feelings of social isolation were not about the glasses at all. It was not about the mole or the cowlick or my funny looks. I had not been on the outside of life looking in, but rather on the inside looking out.
When God looked at my DNA strand, I wonder: Did He know that all along?
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