Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Mother's Eyes

In some ways, my husband has great vision. Whenever we're in the car, he keeps up a constant running commentary on everything he sees. He'll glance casually out the window and say, "see that line of spray paint? That means they're going to add new electric lines there and that means they're going to build there and given the size of those sewers it's definitely going to be multi-family housing and..." Even if I take the time to look up from my book and peer out intently, I can never so much as glimpse what he's talking about. The man has never had a proper nom de blog and he deserves one. I hereby name him Hawkeye.

Hawkeye, however, cannot really see color. Oh, he's not color blind in the technical sense, only in the practical one. When he dresses Turtle, he sees nothing wrong with matching the lime green shirt with the forest green pants. "How can green not match green?" he'll demand indignantly. To me it's like listening to someone hit a flat when singing the national anthem: too cringe-inducing for words.

Take another example. Once on a long road trip we passed a huge billboard for a china outlet right off the highway. They carried our brand and we'd just broken two plates, so I badgered Hawkeye till he turned around and took the exit. Sure enough, the warehouse had our pattern prominently displayed on a front table. But I immediately realized that there was something off about the colors in the glaze. They weren't so much the beautiful cobalt of my dish set as some kind of muddied off-denim blue. "Never mind," I said, "these are clearly seconds." My husband stifled a sigh at being dragged off route for nothing and reasonably pointed to the sign that said, "all china first quality."

I kept arguing with him about the ineffable color of cobalt until he fetched a salesperson who agreed with him that the dishes on display were the genuine article and that I was either crazy or seeing things or both. I wandered the rest of the store in frustration until by chance, on a completely different display, I saw a vase in the same pattern as our china with our blue glaze, the right blue glaze, and I bore it over to them in triumph. With that, the salesperson agreed to bring out every plate she had from the back room and we went through them one by one. Half way through a pile of 30 plates, we found a single one to match my cobalt.

When we turned the plates over, Hawkeye realized that the logos on the plates were subtly different (a point I myself would never have noticed). The muddy denim plates had the logo written in slightly italicized font. In fact, the objectionable plates turned out to be slight update on my older--far superior--version of the pattern. So we bought the last old-style plate they had in stock. And even though I was still one plate shy of a dozen I crowed to Hawkeye for the rest of the trip about my incredibly refined color vision.

I have never known to what possible end nature could have endowed me and my foremothers with this extraordinary gift of color perception. To spot the ripest berries on the Savannah? But now I know.

The whole point of acute color vision is to allow me to engage in minute scrutiny of my toilet paper, scanning for any trace of blood each and every time I wipe. In the absence of any other scrap of information about the state of this pregnancy (all symptoms having vanished) I am left screening shreds of toilet tissue for hints of embryonic tissue. Thanks to my UTI (yes I have another one) I have at least one opportunity per hour for this joyless performance. So far, we're all clean. But it's gonna be a long 10 days...unless it all ends shortly.

For now, if you're looking for me, you'll know where to find me: crouched over in the bathroom, swiping, squinting, praying.