Society and Culture
by Jo Elizabeth Pinto
I’m feeling a little raw as a blind mom today. The reason doesn’t matter much, but I guess that’s why my mind rustled up a memory this morning that made me cry. It’s funny how our brains store away bits and pieces of our lives in places where we can’t find them, then pop them out like plastic balls in a Bingo machine when we least expect it.
It all started because my preteen daughter was fooling around with a long piece of pipe cleaner she happened to find on the kitchen table. She twisted it into a crude pair of glasses, which she perched on my nose.
“Let there be light!” she proclaimed. “Open your eyes and see!”
I laughed and handed her the glasses. “Nice try.”
She sauntered off to her room, twisting the pipe cleaner in her hands and thinking no more of the incident. But I was taken back in a flash to a day when she was three or four years old.
Since she was an only child, I had enrolled her in preschool two mornings a week so she could get accustomed to hanging out with other kids. One day, her class read a book about a teddy bear who got new glasses. The bear worried that his glasses would make him look funny, but then he figured out that they helped him see. He learned to love his glasses very much. The kids made their own glasses out of those plastic thingies that hold soda cans together, with pipe cleaner earpieces.
Well, my toddler came home jazzed! She rushed up to me, not even waiting to take off her jacket, and jumped into my arms.
“Glasses help you see!” she crowed, shoving the plastic Coke can holders into my face and poking me in the eye with a pipe cleaner. “You love glasses, Mommy!”
“What?” I fought off the pipe cleaner. “What are these? Oh, glasses. How cool! Did you make sunglasses today?”
“Don’t you see?” The first storm clouds blew across her mental sky. “Mommy, don’t you see? Glasses help you see.”
Bit by bit, I figured out the story of the teddy bear and his new glasses. I had to tell my little girl that my eyes were broken. There were no glasses that would help me see. That was a sad moment, but not one ice cream didn’t fix.
My daughter has gotten used to the idea that my eyes aren’t ever going to start working. What she hasn’t gotten used to is a society that isn’t willing to accept her mom as an equal on the playing field.
Frankly, I hope she never gets used to that. I hope she never gets used to people asking her for my phone number when we’re out shopping and there’s a place to enter club card information. For now, she walks away and starts looking at the cheap point-of-sale junk so the clerks are forced to interact with me. I hope she never gets embarrassed by the people who stare at us when we go out to restaurants or parks. For now, she stares right back. I hope she never gets intimidated by the people who try to cut in front of me in line at grocery stores and coffee shops. For now, she has no problem telling them her mom was there first.
My daughter is growing up to be an awesome ally for me. But people who don’t have disabled relatives can be allies, too. If you see someone cut the line in front of a blind person at the supermarket, speak up politely and offer to stand with the one who can’t see so he or she knows when to move forward. Always offer help verbally before you touch someone who is blind, and accept a no without taking it personally. When in doubt about what to do or say, remember, kindness should always rule the day.
About the Author
Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader. As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away. Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her preteen daughter, and their pets. Visit her website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com.