Times maketh the Man

Glasses (commercial)Stepping outside in a dark evening to deposit the recycling into it’s proper receptacle, I was this evening struck by something. Something I had not thought deeply on before. How hard it was to see in the dark without my glasses.

Initially a silly stray thought it went to others. I am myopic. So are both my parents, and at least two of my grandparents. Given that one of my two paternal uncles is also Myopic, it’s entirely possible that this has run in my family for quite some time. My father also see’s ‘fuzzy’ without his glasses.  As likely did countless others going back generations.

This set me to thinking about those ancestors. As close as the earlier half of the 20th century glasses would be the purview of the wealthy, or at least the middle glass. Glasses were the mark of education, education the mark of wealth and privilege. My ancestors, mostly from a working class background in Scotland, might very well not have been able to afford them. Further back, in the Victorian era, and it’s entirely possibly they might not have even realized the need. If they did, there was probably nothing they could do about it. Further back, a dozen generations perhaps, and there was nothing that could be done. The fuzziness that surrounds lights and other things at night for me. That makes reading or sorting details at a distance difficult, would just be the way things are.

In the age before glasses that could be purchased for half a week’s salary. Before health plans and health insurance and deferred costs. In an era where working meant with your hands for most people, my ancestors didn’t have the opportunity to see as clearly as I do on a daily basis. I wonder how those men and women would look at their bespectacled descendant.

One more thought on the way history can be a history of objects, of common people, of culture and society, just as much as it can of great men, wars, politics and religion.


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