Ginger is the picture of a happy, fully involved eighth grader. Now in her last year of middle school, she’s riding high as an attractive, popular, friendly teenager. Just turned fourteen in November, she’s a member of the winning field hockey team, an avid piano player, and active in student government. Blessed with a fine soprano voice, she has been one of the chorus section leaders, as the chorus entered and won several contests. Life is good for Ginger; oh yes, she’s also a good student.
Ginger also wears eyeglasses. Back a few years ago, actually the beginning of fourth grade, Ginger missed a few lines on the eye chart during the routine screening. Her parents were notified, an eye examination followed, and Ginger soon had her first glasses—beginner strength, about minus one diopter or so. She didn’t really like getting glasses but could see the advantage of being able to read the black board. She was told to wear the glasses for distance, but that she could leave them off for reading. So she’s read without her glasses ever since, and she learned to accept and even enjoy wearing the glasses at most other times.
Each year since her first eye exam, Ginger has returned to the eye doctor and found she needed stronger prescriptions, and by last winter’s exam she had reached three and a half diopters. She knew the number because Doc Seegood (his name is Seagraves, but people refer to him as Seegood) always explains the new prescription and how much it has changed.
Then this past fall she had trouble seeing the board again.
She told her mother “I can’t believe it, mom, but I think I need stronger glasses again. Seems like I just got these. I hope I’m not going blind.”
“Oh, I don’t think you’re going blind. It’s pretty common for growing kids to need stronger glasses; it was for me too. I’ll get you an appointment over Thanksgiving and we can see what’s happening.”
On the day after Thanksgiving, Ginger was back at Doc Seegood’s. He checked her refraction, then inserted lenses in the trial frame and put it on her.
“How’s that,” he asked.
She looked around, smiled and said “Good.”
Then he said “Ginger, I can see why you asked to come in here. Your new prescription will be four and a quarter diopters, the same in both eyes. That’s a pretty big jump in nine months, but not too unusual. Don’t be alarmed, but be aware that you’re likely to need stronger lenses again in the future.”
Ginger and her mom went over to the optician to order new lenses. Ginger asked to have them put in her current frames, nice ones with shiny silver-rims.
“I really like these frames,” she said. “I think I look good in them, so I don’t want new ones.”
She left the glasses with the optician, they went for some lunch, and returned later to find the glasses ready. Ginger wore them home, of course.
“It’s amazing how good it seems to look through new glasses,” she said to her mom. “I just hope I don’t get so I need glasses much stronger than these.”
The following Monday Ginger was back at school. She could read the board with ease, but she noticed it was harder to read with the glasses. So she just continued to read without them, as always. It was now past Thanksgiving, and with the field hockey season over, the next big school event would be the holiday music program. The chorus is always a key part of it, and the finale is always “Oh Holy Night,” featuring one of the girls as soloist. The date is always the third Wednesday after Thanksgiving, and each year the audience fills the auditorium to overflowing with family, friends, alumni, and assorted groupies.
On the Thursday before, Miss Ryder, the chorus director, invited all interested girls to audition for the solo. Ginger tried out, after school, and then went home to await results. At dinner time Miss Ryder called on the phone to tell Ginger the solo would be hers. Ginger and her parents were excited.
“Congratulations, dear,” her mom said. “They made the right choice.”
Ginger said “Boy, that’s a real honor. I just hope I do it right. I think I’ll be okay as long as I stay calm and don’t get nervous.”
The next day Ginger got to rehearse the solo along with the chorus. They were in the chorus room, and Ginger stood right by Miss Ryder. She left her glasses off, thinking she wouldn’t be wearing them on stage, but partly also because she had trouble reading the music with her glasses on. But the rehearsal went fine, and Ginger did beautifully. She went home for the weekend relaxed, thinking the only difficult part of the solo assignment would be deciding, over the weekend, what to wear on stage.
On Monday the chorus went to the auditorium stage to practice during school; later, all the music groups were to rehearse there Monday evening. When they were positioned on stage, Ginger found that her place to stand for the solo was across the stage, some distance from Miss Ryder. They tried the song and Ginger missed her cue, because without glasses she couldn’t see Miss Ryder’s hands and face well enough.
Miss Ryder asked “Where are your glasses?”
“I thought I wouldn’t be wearing them, so I left them off,” Ginger said.
“You have to be able to see me,” the director said.
So Ginger tried it with her glasses on and got all her cues, but she misread some words. Miss Ryder wasn’t pleased. She told Ginger it would have to be better for the evening rehearsal.
At home after school Ginger was near tears. She told her parents her dilemma: she couldn’t read the music with glasses on and couldn’t see Miss Ryder well enough with them off.
“Maybe your glasses are too strong,” her father said.
“What am I going to do,” Ginger cried, “I don’t want to lose the solo.”
So they experimented. All the family—Ginger, mom, dad, brother, and sister (all nearsighted)—gathered all the glasses they had in the house. Ginger tried them all, reading with them and looking far across the room. They concluded that Ginger could do best with her father’s glasses, weaker than hers at about three diopters. So he agreed to take her to the rehearsal and let her borrow his glasses for the solo.
Ginger did fine in the rehearsal, but after they got home she was still distraught.
“What am I going to do for the concert? Wearing daddy’s glasses for the rehearsal was embarrassing enough, but I can’t do that for the big audience. The kids are teasing me already.”
“I see what you mean,” her father said. “I think your only chance is to see Doc Seegood tomorrow. I’ll take the day off, call him first thing, and get him to take you right away.”
“Okay,” she said. “Maybe he can adjust my glasses somehow.”
Next day in school, during fourth period, she was paged and summoned to the office. Her father was there and said he briefly described Ginger’s emergency to Doc Seegood. Doc could fit her in right now, so off they went. As soon as they arrived, a nurse called Ginger to come in.
“I need to get some measurements first,” she said, and did so after getting Ginger to sit before an automatic refraction machine and identify letters inside. It printed out some numbers. Then they went to the examination room.
Doc Seegood came in a moment later, listened to the problem, and looked at the nurse’s measurements. With Ginger in the examination chair, he put lenses into the trial frame and put it on her.
“That’s what you have in your glasses; you were able to read the bottom line over on the wall last week. Cover one eye at a time and tell me if you can still read it.”
“Yes,” and “Yes I can,” she said.
Then he placed a card in her hand and asked her how much she could read.
“I can read the big letters and down about halfway. Then they’re too blurry.”
He inserted one more lens in front of each eye.
“Now how much can you read.”
“Oh, I can read it all, even the little letters.”
“That’s what I thought,” he said. “I should have noticed it when you were here last time, but you seemed okay then. Ginger, you have what we call an accommodation problem. I hate to tell you this, but you need bifocals. You need different strength glasses for reading and for distance; your glasses are too strong for good vision close up. You could juggle two pairs, I suppose, for normal use, but that wouldn’t work for you now.”
“Bifocals!!?” Ginger exclaimed. “I never expected that. Why? I’m only fourteen. I thought bifocals are for older people.”
“Well, that’s mostly true. But some times young people need bifocals too. If so, they should have them. There’s no real reason for your problem, but for some near-sighted people, reading without glasses sometimes brings it on.”
With tears welling in her eyes, Ginger barely whispered “I don’t know if I can handle this. Is there no other way?”
“Well, we could get you some weaker lenses like your father’s,” Doc Seegood explained, “that would get you through the concert. But it’s really no solution. I think it’s better to get the bifocals now. Fortunately opticians can make them quickly these days; you should have them today. You’ll only have a day to practice with them before your concert, but I’m sure you can do it.”
Well Ginger left with a new prescription for bifocals, after Doc Seegood explained it to her.
“See the -4.25? That’s your distance prescription, what you have now. This Add +1.50 is so you can also see up close. We add together -4.25 and +1.50 (I’m giving you a little algebra lesson here), and we get -2.75. That’s what you need for reading, which, by the way, will be much easier for you. I have a sample bifocal lens here; you look through the top part most of the time but look through this small segment when you want to read. FT stands for flat top, for obvious reasons. The 28 means a segment 28-mm wide.”
“Oh,” Ginger said.
Then she and her father went over to the optician, got measured for the bifocals, and left her glasses to have new lenses installed. They had about two hours to kill, so they walked around the mall for a while (Ginger could hardly see a thing), quit that and went for some hot dogs, and just shared time together. After they talked it all out, Ginger felt much more resigned and agreeable to the notion of bifocals.
They returned later to the optician, who had the glasses ready. She put them on Ginger.
“Look at me,” she said. “Good. Now bend your eyes down, look through the bottom of your glasses, and tell me what you can read on this card.”
Ginger did that, and she smiled and said “Wow, I can read all of it, even the tiny print.”
Ginger took them off for a good look.
“They don’t look so great, but if I can see well with them I guess they’ll be all right.”
She put them on and looked around at the rack of frames, then down at her finger nails, out into the mall, and down at her watch. Surprise! The watch has little marks for all sixty seconds!
She smiled, “Not bad.”
Ginger and her father went home and arrived just when her mother got home.
“Mom,” she said, “you’re not going to believe this, but I need bifocals. I have them on already. Come and see them.”
And she showed the bifocals to her mother.
“I’m not totally surprised,” her mom said. “I thought that might be the answer but thought Doc Seegood should be the one to tell you. Get some practice tonight; do a lot of reading and looking around.”
Ginger felt a little awkward with them, but with some practice through dinner and the evening, she started to get the hang of using bifocals.
The next day was Wednesday, the day of the concert. Ginger arrived at school and met her friend Sarah. Sarah wears glasses too, and they often talk about them.
“Hi, Ginge,” Sarah said. “Hey are you going to wear your father’s glasses again tonight? You looked really cool with them on! We were all smirking.”
“No,” Ginger said adamantly. “I’m wearing my own glasses. We solved the problem yesterday. I need two different prescriptions, and so I have bifocals now. I can see perfect up close and far away. See, look at them. I’m getting to like them already, and I’m sure they’ll do the trick. So you can forget laughing at me with a man’s glasses on.”
Sarah said “Wow, what a surprise. Bifocals! Hey, can I try them on?”
“Sure,” and Ginger got a chance to see what her bifocals look like on Sarah. “They look very becoming, Sarah.”
Ginger left her glasses on the whole day and found it very convenient, switching her eyes between her desk and the front of the room. After chorus class, Ginger told Miss Ryder what her problem had been and how she solved it, showing her the bifocals.
“I feel happy and confident now. I’m sure my solo will go okay.”
Miss Ryder said “I thought there was something wrong; I’m happy you resolved it. Good luck tonight.”
That night was the concert. Ginger was dressed up beautifully; a Christmas-green long-sleeve dress and new black heels (her first). The concert was going well, and then the chorus was on stage. When the time came for the finale, out stepped the bespectacled soloist, looking at ease and wearing a big smile. They put a spotlight on her, and her face, jewelry, and glasses sparkled. Ginger found her spot and waited for the announcer.
“Next is our final, traditional number, ‘O Holy Night.’ Our soloist is Ginger Radburn.”
Ginger didn’t really hear it. She was thinking.....(I can see Miss Ryder. Good. She winked at me; smile back. I can read my music. Good. The intro repeats several times. She’ll give me a nod to get started. Remember to smile. Don’t get distracted. Watch Miss Ryder. Announcement is over. There’s the intro. One, two, three, she’s nodding)
“Oh holy night, the stars are brightly .....” She was on time and on pitch, clear as a bell.
(Need to give a lilting feeling to the next lines.) “A thrill of hope, the weary world ...”
(Chorus joins in next. I can relax a bit.) “Fall on your knees, oh hear the angels ...”
(It’s going good. Don’t even need the words. Solo coming to finish the first verse.)
“Oh night, divine, Oh night ...” (Okay, now the second verse. Chorus singing too.)
“Truly He taught us ...” (Take it easy ‘til last line solo. Look for a nod. There.)
“Oh night, Di vi-i-ine, O-oh night, O-o-o-o-oh night divine!”
The song was concluding; Ginger had held the high G perfectly, for three whole beats. There wasn’t a sound from the delighted audience. Then Ginger’s clear tone stopped, the accompaniment stopped, and the audience exploded with cheers and applause. Then they stood up. (This is wonderful. I can’t believe it. I guess I did okay. Smile now and bow. Turn and wave to acknowledge Miss Ryder and the piano player. Bow again. Stay here ‘til they stop.)
Ginger returned to her spot in the Chorus and heard whispers of congratulations. Someone squeezed her shoulder, another her hand. The announcer closed the program with a Happy Holiday wish, and it was over. Ginger received many hugs from chorus members, even Tommy Connell, the class president. Outside in the hall there were more hugs, congratulations, compliments from people in the audience. Having glasses on and bifocals made no difference to anyone. Ginger was thrilled.
Then she and her family piled into their car for the ride home.
“We’re very proud of you,” her father said. “You were perfect.”
“Yes, and especially with all the upset you had the last couple of days,” her mother added.
Ginger said “I felt very calm and confident. I looked down and could read the music easily; I knew I’d be all right. Then do you know what? I didn’t even need to look at it; I did it all mostly from memory. I know I would have been nervous if I had to worry about reading the music, and I would have surely messed up somewhere. So I need to give credit to my new glasses. Oh, I’m happy and relieved.”
Ginger took a long time to calm down and get to sleep that night.
The next day Ginger was her old out-going bubbly self. She said hello to everyone and received many compliments and hugs over her performance. No one asked why she wore glasses on stage, and no one seemed to notice the bifocals. In Social Studies class the teacher gave them time to catch up on assignments. Ginger was up to date on hers and didn’t feel like working anyhow. So she settled for daydreaming, looking out the window. (I guess I should be happy with these bifocals, after all they help me see well. I’d better get used to them, ‘cause daddy says I’ll probably always need them. I wonder if that kills my plan for contacts next year in high school. Oh well, I can worry about that later. Bifocals would be better if only some other kids had them; I think I’m the only one. Hey, I’m a popular kid here. Maybe I could start a trend toward kids with bifocals. Maybe some ads: ‘Kids and bifocals; looking good!’ Drum up interest and demand. Hmmmm....)
Later, at lunch, Ginger sat down with her friends. “Sarah,” she said, “I think you ought to get bifocals. You won’t believe how good you can see until you ...... Lots of kids are ... Doc Seegood can ....”
And who would believe that a pair of bifocal lenses in those shiny silver rims could become the heroes of a happy story such as this.