28 06 2008

“There once was a Dutchman named Jo
Whose eyes had a stunning blue glow
When one turned to brown
He passed the gene down
To the one he would leave all the dough.”

Growing up, I was embarrassed by my eyes. They caused stares, and worse yet, they put me directly in the line of sight of Bev Hartley. She focused on my eyes.

Bev is the mother of Tina, and growing up, I spent about half of each weekend and most of each summer trying to live at Tina’s house. After all, Tina had three older brothers, all of whom were huge football stars at the high school. During each Big Red team dinner, Tina and I would linger around the kitchen as the players ate lasagna pan after lasagna pan. We loved those nights, the house filled to the brim with senior boys.

However, there was another side to those dinners. Bev would parade me around the house, insisting that I stand in front of every senior with my hand holding up my bangs. She would then demand that each player look deep into my eyes until he noticed what was different about me. The process took what felt like hours, and for me, it was way too much attention from the senior boys.

In addition, Tina and Bev together forced me to enter a look-alike contest with their Bernese Mountain Dog, who also happened to have one blue eye and one brown eye. To their delight, Peri and I won first place. In sixth grade, or frankly any grade, winning first place in a dog look-alike contest cannot be described as desirable.

Today, I have found love both for the Hartleys and my eyes; for the Hartleys, because time heals all wounds, and for my eyes, because they connect me directly and irrefutably to my Opa. No biology teacher has been able to fully explain why my Opa and I have this mutation, but one thing is clear: we’re both a little different in the same way.

I admired so many things about my Opa, but perhaps what I loved most was his optimism. It wasn’t obvious or even recognizable most of the time; Opa was not particularly cheery. However, he loved travel. He loved experiencing art or culture or food or people or anything, really. Whether or not he admitted it outright, he believed there was something to see around every bend.

I remember when I was leaving to live in Italy. Opa remarked, “Ah, to see Italy for the first time; how I wish I could have your eyes.”

During the last four years of his life, I routinely asked Opa where he would return if he could travel one more time. His answer was almost always India, because, “There, I saw things I had never seen before. It is like no other place.”

So, I’m off to India. Sensory overload: here I come. I’m reminded of something James wrote in his law school essay, something like, “I hoped that by the time I returned from my travels, I’d have figured out why I went in the first place.”

We’ll see. Until then, enjoy summertime, call my mom on her birthday (July 1), and I’ll see you in August.