Just this past weekend, I picked up a new pair of glasses, which is not particularly noteworthy, but these came with a story behind them. I own contacts, but rarely wear them because they usually dry out at some point in the day and become uncomfortable. My previous glasses had to be taken off in order to see things close up properly and my doctor told me I was dangerously close to needed bifocals. Instead, he gave me a new prescription and recommended a special lens that’s far more subtle, but would help with the reading of menus. I was fine with my previous glasses and fine with simply taking them off when required, so I didn’t buy a new pair at the time. Then, when Philippe and I were in Paris a couple of months ago, his mother brought out several pairs of glasses that had once belonged to my father-in-law. He passed away at the end of 2016, shortly after Philippe and I had just visited, so we had to quickly return to France within a couple of weeks for the funeral. When Philippe’s mother brought out one particular pair, I was completely fascinated. They were a wildly bright and translucent Doodlewash blue and neither Philippe nor I had ever seen him wear them. So, I selected those frames and Philippe took a pair of very retro sunglasses. I finally made it to the eye doctor to drop them off and now have my brand new prescription housed in a rather unexpected family heirloom. I really cherish these new glasses.
Prior to visiting France, Philippe and I had been watching a French show on television where people bring in their antiques to be assessed and then bid on by a panel of antique dealers. One of the dealers is known for his impossibly blue glasses and I told Philippe that I wanted a pair like that. We looked online at various places, but couldn’t find anything at all similar anywhere. I secretly wanted to try my new prescription, but I didn’t want to pay for frames I didn’t really want. So, when Philippe’s mother pulled out these particular glasses, we both looked at each other rather stunned. They were the perfect blue, one that could only be painted from my watercolor palette and exactly the glasses I had imagined in my mind. I think I managed to calmly accept them, but I was so moved for so many reasons that I’m not sure now how I reacted. My mother-in-law simply wanted those frames to have a bit of a second life. A chance to see the world again with new eyes. And, as an artist, that’s all I ever really hope for every single day.
I didn’t get to really know my father-in-law that well and only saw him on a very few occasions before he passed. He was already ill and at the end of his life, but the creative spark I saw in his eyes is one I still see in Philippe each day. Also, he was an amazing chef, something I actually did get to experience, which gave Philippe his own joy of cooking. That’s the beautiful thing about family. It extends beyond our own lives and continues on for generations. We’re but a moment in a long history of people that have come before us and people who will come after us. Even if we’ve never even met them, they’ve already played a role in our lives. They’ve placed a piece of the puzzle that will reveal who we will ultimately become. And I love knowing that these glasses will still get that second chance to see the world. I can only hope to honor the eyes that came before me and make choices that would make those eyes smile. Life is incredibly short, but it never really ends. There are memories and joys that follow those we adore well past our own time here. While there are certainly people who achieve fame, the rest of us can still rest assured that we were, at the very least, once famous to someone who loved us. And I’m honored, humbled and thrilled to start each new day, wearing a bit of family history.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!