The kitchen window is wide open, it’s a sunny spring afternoon, and I can hear the neighbor kids coming up the road for the mail. I look through the top part of my new progressive (no line) bifocals, then over the top of the frames just to check if I can see better the old way. Nope. The glasses are better. Gretel is in the lead, Batman is on his tiny bike, and there’s Hansel calmly walking and talking with their mom in the far distance.
I look back down at the countertop. The eyeglasses are brand new, and every time I shift my focus, it takes a second or two for my eyes and my brain to catch up. My current project is kefir (pronounced in these parts as KEE-fur, regardless of how it’s pronounced elsewhere…), given to me last week by another neighbor who says it is full of natural probiotics and is way healthy and inexpensive. I’m learning how to live with it, too, separating the grains from the cultured milk before I strain the milk for cheese and sourdough bread starter —
— and as I wait, I remember that I have two dozen eggs for these very neighbors. I can hear Batman shrieking. I must hurry.
I pivot and open the refrigerator door.
All is a blurr until I focus in on the eggs in their recycled egg boxes. I grab them and then open the laundry room door, adjust focus big time, snatch a plastic bag from the hanging bag of bags, then turn and wait a second for my eyes to catch up once again.
Gretel screams with laughter. I hear the Bearded One’s deep voice and I am reassured. There is not so much hurry. The kids will definitely stop to play with him.
I head to the back door and can see the freezer clearly. Boxes of seed potatoes sprout in the sun, and I can even read the names, True Blue and German Butterball.
The back steps are tricky, kind of like a ski slope. I pause, peer through the top of my lenses, and call out, “I’ve got eggs!”
Gretel greets me at the end of the driveway. I can see her jagged, new bottom front teeth as she smiles and accepts the bag. Hansel appears and I notice the smoothness of his almost 9-year-old cheeks. His eyes are brown, Gretel’s are blue. From six feet away, the world looks perfect.
The Bearded One watches Batman who has dutifully stopped at the road, as he is supposed to.
I hand Gretel the eggs and offer to give them all some kefir bread. If they like it, I have extra grains if she’d like her own starter.
“We’re making butter in science!” says Hansel, and starts skipping around now, and stepping all over the moss the Bearded One has just transplanted on the edge of the rockery.
“Look out,” Hansel’s mom says to him. “Don’t step all over the moss.”
I don’t even notice, I’m so struck by the wonderful coincidence of their homeschooling curriculum. This is the cutting edge of education, I think happily, and actually forget about my glasses.
Batman streaks by on his bike, and my eyes adjust. His head is so big, his bike so little. The helmet is the size of a sink.
“Kefir is a fungi,” I say, “which is its own kingdom. They are neither animals nor plants.”
“We saw a show on what all’s in the food we eat,” our neighbor says and laughs. “You don’t want to know. Hair clippings. Rat droppings. There are tons of bugs in rice!”
The Bearded One says, “Mmm. Good bugs.”
“Ewwwww!” Hansel acts like he’s sick, dances around and steps on the moss again.
Our neighbor rolls her eyes — she wears contacts she told me — says she would love to try some bread, and then rounds up her brood and heads home.
Back inside, I slice the bread and make chicken sandwiches for lunch. The Bearded One sets the table and we eat and talk. I enjoy the clarity of my vision fully as he ooooos and ahhhhhs over the bread, which is a very mild sourdough. He reminds me that he can’t stand real sourdough, but says this stuff is great.
Then he belches theatrically. A loud guttural burp. And then there is another one, and another. On and on. He fairly glows with pride.
I am transfixed by the spectacle. I am bug-eyed behind my lenses.
When he is finally quiet, he dabs his lips daintily with his napkin and his blue eyes laugh at me as he calmly explains,”Probiotics. Yum.”