I’m in love with my new eyeglasses. OK, I’m not really in love with them in the way that one human being can be in love with another human being, but I do like them an awful, awful lot.

Because of all the writing and editing I do on the computer, my husband and I decided it would be a good idea to “invest” in a higher grade of lenses (read: sell our first born into slave labor to come up with the dough for them).
We also “invested” in a sturdier frame – the kind with the two-sided hinge so you can bend them either way and not break them – since I’m pretty hard on eyeglasses by taking them on and off all the time. (Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to do that. I’m incorrigible).

Sensibilities aside, I’m in love with my eyeglasses because they’re a bit on the daring side, fashionably speaking, and … well … because, frankly, I like the way I look in them. So there.

Mark and I went together to order glasses, and I was determined to keep them a surprise from the kids until I actually had them. I resisted their every attempt to weasel it out of me, so they did what any smart kid would do when they want something that Mom won’t give them; they go to Dad.

“Mom’s glasses?”  he murmured nonchalantly. “Well, they’re brown on the front with leopard pattern on the sides.”

Ha!  I thought to myself. Mark’s no idiot. He’s playing along with me and leading them on. What a clever husband I have! Good boy!

Smiling (OK, snickering) through the following days, I let the kids guess all they wanted about my “leopard” glasses. They knew I had a pronounced aversion to leopard anything. I have no problem with anyone else wearing or owning something – or even as many things as they want – with a leopard pattern, I just refuse to do so myself. I think leopard pattern on or anywhere near my being is absolutely hideous.

It got to be a running joke between my daughter and me. If one of us encountered an item with leopard on it while we were shopping together, we’d draw it to the attention of the other, after which we’d carry on about its exquisiteness and value.

So, the very prospect of my having leopard-patterned eyeglasses was totally ridiculous.  

Finally, it came: THE phone call from the vision center telling me that my glasses were in. I (almost) literally dropped what I was doing, grabbed our youngest son, John, and headed out the door. I could not wait another minute to get my new glasses. I was almost giddy as we entered the establishment, certain that those glasses were going to change my life. They did, but not in the way I’d imagined.

The attendant asked for my name, offered me a seat at the table with the mirror, and then went to the back to get my glasses. She came out with them in a fancy little tray (Fitting for my precious, fabulous eyewear, I told myself), sat across from me, cleaned them off, and told me to lean forward as she slipped them on.

“There, now. Take a look,” she said confidently as she motioned to the mirror.

I took a look. Then, I nearly fainted. The sides of the frame were … leopard pattern!

Impossible! I thought. Was Mark playing some outrageous practical joke on me? Did he pay the attendant to bring out a bogus pair of glasses?  

The night I’d picked out frames, the store only had them in black – which did not look one iota like leopard on the sides, mind you – and I based my decision mostly on the way they fit, functioned, and yes, because they were one of their newest, trendiest styles and the shape and size worked well with my facial features.

They also came in brown, the attendant had assured me, which would look far better on me than the black. Nobody ever said the word “leopard” that night, and it definitely wasn’t on my radar screen. I’m too savvy for that. I can spot leopard a mile away.

Yep, I can spot leopard anytime, except when it’s right on my face.

I took the glasses off, examined them carefully, put them back on, gazed into the mirror and … burst out laughing.

“They’re leopard!” I exclaimed.

In black, the leopard pattern wasn’t obvious. In brown, it was unmistakable.

“Uh, yes, they are,” the attendant offered quizzically.

“I thought my husband was just playing a joke on the kids,” I chuckled.

The attendant looked worried. “They’re what you ordered. Are they OK?”

Still chuckling, I told her, “Yeah, they’re great. I love them, really.”

She seemed relieved, but still cautious, as she made some minor adjustments and refitted them. I thanked her – sincerely – and John and I left, me still chuckling.

I’d sworn I’d never be caught dead in leopard anything and now I’m quite alive and well as I proudly wear my leopard-frame glasses. The more I wear them, the more I love them, for two reasons.

First, because they are hands down the best glasses – function-wise and fashion-wise – that I’ve ever owned. Second, because they are a reminder to me that sometimes I don’t know myself as well as I think I do.

My leopard-frame glasses are teaching me humility. God in his wisdom and mercy is using them to show me that I need to be more open-minded, not just about leopard patterns, but also about everything in my life, especially in regard to my attitudes, faulty conclusions, labels and prejudices against other people.

If I don’t know myself as well as I think I do, then how can I expect that I know anybody else as well as I think I do? How often do I pass judgment on a situation or person because I think I’ve taken everything in with a single glance?

Sometimes, I think I don’t even need to glance because I already “know” all about it. If something’s in black, I assume it’ll look the same in brown, as well.

My eyewear experience has taught me that I need to take another, more comprehensive, look at myself and at the world around me – this time, through the lenses of leopard-frame eyeglasses.

(Fenelon, a mother of four, and her husband, Mark, belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her website: www.margefenelon.com.)