As a child, I loved bedtime because I dreamt in color and the epic adventures my subconscious invented could be revisited and continued from one night to the next. I was able to recall the story and pick up right where it left off the night before, like an excellent illustrated chapter book. In my tweens, a new phenomenon developed. I began to have a recurrent nightmare, in which I was chased by a cloaked, faceless man. There was a dark tower ahead in the fog which I knew offered safety if I could just outrun him, but my vision would fog and I would begin to stumble and falter. My fall would be broken by hundreds of mewing black cats and the tall mysterious tower, looming several meters away, remained out of my reach. Cats and blurred vision are my avowed enemies to this very day.
All grown-up and having graduated optometry school, my dreams morphed yet again. The new horror now involved my projector breaking or, when the acuity chart became computerized, the remote control would fail and cause me to run hours late with my patients. Like an internal alarm sensor, I have this dream whenever my stress levels rise to high alert.
I woke up in a cold sweat. My adolescent and adult selves, having resolved into one mature persona, had apparently caused my sleeping brain to merge the recurrent nightmares into one epic horror film.
I arrived at my office in the morning and started my day with two toddlers. For some reason, my son was acting as my tech and decided to help me by rigging the acuity screen to play a movie instead of displaying a picture chart. I took the remote away from him but the screen was now stuck in an endless loop of Finding Nemo. Ploughing right along, I continued the exams while the screen blared out, Somewhere Beyond the Sea.
Finishing the two toddlers, I brought them outside to hand the family off to the opticians but noticed that the dispensary was not only bereft off all furniture and frames but packed with children and adults all glaring at me for running late. My younger associate was standing helplessly in the corner trying to sort out the mayhem. Our cloud-based appointment book had gone haywire and put an entire month’s patient roster on that day’s schedule.
Undaunted, I called, “Who’s next?” and proceeded to the room with the next family. This turned out to be a new family to the practice, consisting of two parents, an infant, twin toddlers and two teens, all Orthodox Jews. The father proceeded to place a booster seat, complete with infant girl strapped safely inside, into the exam chair, and then pull out a list of interview questions aimed at assessing whether I was qualified to examine his family. Prepared to defend my schooling and training, I was taken aback when he asked for my lineage and pedigree. He wanted to know if I was related to the Great Rabbi Kanevsky of Israel, because, he explained, only doctors from a long line of ethical and religious thinkers were qualified to examine his precious brood.
“Kanevsky was a name adopted by my great-grandfather in an attempt to sound less Jewish during the Holocaust,” said I, and went on to elucidate, that while I was likely not related to this Rabbi, nevertheless my grandmother came from the Beilis Hasidim.
Menahem Mendel Beilis, of legendary Russian blood trial fame, was not himself a religious man but did come from a family of prominent rabbis. “I see,” said the tall, venerable gentleman all clad in black, “I suppose that will have to do. ” Now at least two hours behind schedule, I proceeded to examine the infant. Not to be outdone by her wailing toddler siblings, the baby reached for the phoropter and pulled it crashing to the floor. Fearful lest the child injure herself with the sharp metal and glass fragments that came cascading all about her, I grabbed her, still attached to her booster seat, and ran outside the room where I was besieged by a crush of waiting oozy red eyes.
Still perplexed as to why all the furniture and frames had disappeared, I turned to ask my bewildered-looking husband for an explanation. “They were confiscated by the Warby Parker that just opened down the block,” he offered, shrugging his shoulders in resignation. Now desperate to escape the onslaught of irate patients, I pushed past the crowd, out the door, and broke into a run, still clutching the baby tightly to my chest. The rush of cold air and the whirl of white snowflakes temporarily paralyzed my lungs and blurred my vision. I stumbled blindly down the street, all the while lamenting the inevitable destruction of my René Caovilla diamond-soled pumps, which in no way could withstand the muck and mire of an NYC street during a blizzard. Nonetheless, the baby had to be saved.
A faceless man in a dark cape was close on my sparkly heels. I forged ahead. A snowy gorge now separated me from a dark tower looming in the distance. A red buzzing neon sign at it’s top blinked, “Dr. T.J. Eckelburg, Oculist. Your Safety is Our Priority.” I put the baby down on the snow and gave her little booster seat a gentle push. She went flying down the embankment squealing and giggling away into the snowstorm, a ski jump at the other end catapulting her into the safety of Dr. Eckelburg’s tower office. Sadly, I kicked off my last lovely shoe (its mate had been lost in the white flurry sometime during the chase) and prepared to slide down on my backside. Stumbling over something soft and furry, I slowly spiraled down to the slushy pavement. All around me glowed hundreds of slitted green eyes, all magnified by plus lenses, framed by my entire inventory of eyeglasses.
I woke up in a cold sweat and made a mental note to tell Rachel the latest frames she had picked out were the cat’s meow.