I'm in Love with an Acrobat

Harper's CornerI'm in Love with an Acrobat
By Jessica Harper
May 2013

"How threading a needle made my day and saved me from
 wardrobe failure at my daughter's graduation..."

Yesterday, I threaded a needle.

I realize this announcement would not strike an ordinary reader as particularly interesting, or even worth making. But I know that you, dear PXEers, are no ordinary readers. You understand why it is worthy of lead position in this essay.

Long ago, when my vision began its decline, I gave up on needle threading. As my livelihood has never depended on my sewing skills, this was no great loss, but just a small inconvenience. Other tasks that had to be assigned to other willing helpers included toenail trimming, eyebrow tweezing and reading a train schedule or an event program, all of which are coming into play this week, because my younger daughter is graduating from college.

The celebration at Brown University spans an entire weekend, with back-to-back parties and concerts and dinners and breakfasts. This means attention must be paid to grooming details (some of which one might have put off for some time, due to lazy disinterest) and organization beyond the normal. (I have enough trouble with the normal.)

Having assessed what I’d need to do to prepare for Nora’s graduation, I lay down to recover from the expenditure of mental energy, at which point I realized I’d forgotten what to this fashionista seemed the most crucial question: What the hell was I gonna wear?

I leapt (well, crept, maybe) to the closet and shuffled through dresses, each of which reminded me of the wedding or cocktail party or luncheon at which I first wore it. The one I wore to the beach party where Leonardo DiCaprio showed up was too summery, the frock from the niece’s bat mitzvah was too autumn-y, the vintage sundress from Mom’s ninetieth birthday was too wrong, and I nixed the frock I wore to my other daughter’s graduation because when photos of the two occasions are compared I don’t want to look like I haven’t changed my clothes since 2011.

I settled on a navy blue dress that I wore to an African wedding in Denver at which it was 100º and we were seated in full sun. The dress held up well in spite of the full body sweat soak, so I thought it’d be a good bet for a long, warm day of diploma grabbing.

But it was missing a button. Not just any button, but that mega-button that sort of holds the whole dress upright, without which you were setting yourself up for a wardrobe failure like Janet Jackson’s at the Super Bowl that time (only worse because you aren’t Janet Jackson).

You think Obama’s got problems? Well, I had a dress with no button and there I was unable to thread a needle and nobody was home to help me in my hour of desperate need. THAT was a problem.

Then I remembered about my Acrobat.

The Acrobat is a device from a company called Enhanced Vision, which I’m sure most of you know about. It has a monitor not unlike your computer does, with a camera that picks up the image of whatever you want to see and sends it to the screen, magnified as large as you please. You can use it to read documents or to apply nail polish, in spite of your visual challenges.

I’d used my Acrobat many times for reading my DWP bill or checking the nutritional information on a Junior Mints box, but it had not occurred to me I could use it to prevent a Janet Jackson.

I dug up some thread and a needle from my Martha Stewart sewing kit (which I hadn’t used since before she did time) and set about my task. It took a little fumbling around, but with the Acrobat’s help, I managed to get that thread to pass through the needle’s impossibly tiny hole. (How does ANYBODY do this without a fancy magnifier?)

When (again thanks to Acrobat) I sewed the button on the dress (imperfectly but securely), I experienced a sense of accomplishment akin to the one Edison must have felt after the electricity thing.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. The accomplishment that really sends me over the moon this week is Nora’s; my heart is jammed with pride in her achievement. And while I cheer for my daughter, as she receives her diploma I also cheer for the fact that I am able to see it happen. 

When my eyesight first began to deteriorate, Nora was in elementary school, a long journey away from where she is now.  The thing that upset me most about my condition was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to see her or her sister’s graduations or other such transitional moments in their lives.  Worst of all, I couldn’t bear the idea of no longer seeing their faces as they grew to be women.

Unlike many PXEers (for whom I feel great compassion), I have been more than lucky. Thanks to excellent medical care I’m doing well enough that I can continue, at least for now, to witness my children’s lives unfold.  I am grateful for that not just on the special occasions, but every single day.

So now I am going to switch on the Acrobat and use it to examine the train schedule to Providence, to trim my toenails (TMI?) and maybe even to slap on a little red polish while I’m at it, because this is going to be an occasion to celebrate for a whole lot of reasons. 


For more articles by Jessica Harper, visit http://www.jessicaharper.com and http://www.thecrabbycook.com.