This year Molly was ten, and it seemed to everyone who knew and loved her that she grew almost as fast as the plants did. It made her feel important to no longer be thought of as a little girl, and she worked eagerly and happily alongside her parents in the garden. Since receiving the tools from her father, Molly looked forward with excitement to every spring when she could feel the grass beneath her bare feet and smell the warmth of new beginnings in the earth. Each year she would take her rake and hoe and join her mother and father to begin the long process of turning over the soil to make it ready for planting. Working in the garden came naturally to Molly, and she took great pride in her work. In her eagerness to get started, she was always first down the path to the garden gate. Just as her father had told her, the work was long and hard and required everyone to participate, but Molly never minded.
She always waited a bit impatiently for the end of winter, when the sun’s rays would slowly grow stronger and gently warm the earth, melting away the heavy snows that surrounded the little house. The icicles that clung to the roof and eaves would drip endlessly, creating little rivers in the topsoil of the yard. Then, Ari would don his high boots and hitch his team of oxen to his plow. He would drive them forward, pulling on the reins as he led them back and forth across the field creating neat furrows, preparing the soil for Moriah to plant her seeds. From early morning to late afternoon, Molly delighted being in the garden. It was her job to hoe, weed, and water. Using her watering can, Molly would walk between the rows, dreaming of the day when she would pick sweet red berries and pull bright orange carrots out of the earth. It was indeed true that Molly had grown taller in the last few years, but she was still quite a bit shorter than her parents and therefore much closer to the ground. So it had become her job to take away any small rocks and stones that happened to be in the way.
One day as she was bending down to struggle with a particularly troublesome rock, she noticed a bright sparkle at the edge of the row where she was working. What is that? she asked herself, and since Molly was always naturally curious, she had to look closer. Just then a cloud scuttled in front of the sun and the sky grew darker and at first she could not tell the source of the sparkle. Then, just as quickly, the cloud blew softly away and the sun blazed down and then … she saw the sparkle again, this time brighter than before. A silver sliver of bright metal poked through the earth. What could that be? Is it a wand? Molly wondered to herself, stopping just a moment before she touched the shining metal. It can’t be, those are parts of fairy stories and I’m too old to believe in those anymore. Curiosity got the better of her though and she reached down, grasped hold of the thin metal piece, and pulled up slowly. Out of the muddy soil came a pair of spectacles. They looked so very old, as though they had been in the ground for a thousand years.
“Look!” Molly called to her parents as she wiped the damp earth from the spectacles.“Look what I found!”She slipped the spectacles on her nose and her eyes grew wide. Even though the spectacles Molly found had been in the earth a very long time, the lenses still shone like new and the thin silver frame felt as though it fit Molly perfectly. She put them on and pulled them off several times in succession and then she looked through the lenses. As she did, the light of the garden began to change. Molly was thoroughly surprised and she was not sure exactly what she had seen at first, but there seemed to be a subtle shift in her vision and the beginnings of soft colors that slowly formed and seemed to wrap themselves around her when she looked down at her hands and feet. It was an exciting feeling unlike any other feeling she had known before and Molly’s heart beat a little faster. From what seemed like somewhere far away, Molly could hear the sound of her parents’ voices. Moriah and Ari had been keeping an eye on Molly as she worked and they too had seen the bright silver sparkle that Molly had pulled out of the damp earth. They were curious to see what Molly had uncovered.
“What did you find, Molly love?” they called.Molly was a bit startled by the faraway sound of her parents’ voices when they called out to her and she quickly slipped the spectacles off her nose and held them in her hand. Molly did not know what to think about what she had just experienced. She was amazed by all the colors that seemed to surround her, and she almost doubted that what she had seen was true. Looking up, she could clearly see that her parents were coming toward her from where they had been working. “It’s just a pair of old glasses,” she called back to them, holding the spectacles out for her parents to see.
“Well look at that,” said Ari, coming to stand beside his daughter. He examined the spectacles carefully.“I think you just found Great-Grandma Ethel’s spectacles! They have been lost for as long as I can remember. Isn’t that so, Moriah?”
“Yes, I think they are,” Moriah said in awe. Taking the spectacles in her hands, she looked at them closely for a moment as she remembered the grandmother she had known and loved.
“How wonderful that you found them, Molly. We always wondered what had happened to them.”
“Can I keep them Mommy?” Molly asked. “Can I keep them Daddy, please?”
“I don’t see why not,” said Ari.
“I don’t see why not,” said Moriah happily. “I don’t see why not!”
And so she did. Carrying them with her in her apron pocket, Molly tried the spectacles on many times throughout the day. When she looked down through the lenses, she could see a rainbow of colors twirling and twisting around her feet in the dirt, so beautiful and clear that Molly was filled with happiness and joy. Nothing had ever made her feel this way before and she wondered what it all could mean and if the spectacles were some sort of magic meant for her to find. Molly was not frightened by what she saw and felt. They are Great-Grandmother Ethel’s glasses, after all, she reasoned to herself. She was only very curious.
Later that evening, Molly placed the spectacles on her bedside table as she prepared for bed. She had not stopped wondering about them all day since she found them buried in the garden. What were the interesting feelings that came to her when she had put them on? The shift of light and color and the intensity of emotions that filled her each time she had put the spectacles on were too vivid to ignore. It was a puzzle, and as Molly drew back the quilt and got into bed, her head was full of questions to which she had no answers. From her bed, Molly could hear soft footsteps coming towards her from the hallway. She held the spectacles close in her hand and waited anxiously for her mother to come in to say goodnight. Moriah made her way slowly along the corridor that led to Molly’s bedroom. She carried a small lantern before her as she approached Molly’s bedroom door, and the light from the single candle within cast large and ominous shadows along the walls. Moriah knocked softly on the door and pushed it open with a squeak.
“Molly, are you ready for me to say goodnight?” Moriah asked as she stepped lightly into the room. The shadows grew smaller as Moriah placed her lantern on Molly’s bedside table. The light in the room was now soft and gentle and Moriah’s presence eased Molly’s swirling thoughts, just as it always did when she was hurt or troubled. She breathed a little easier knowing that Moriah was near. Almost before she realized it, Molly had slipped the spectacles onto her nose as soon as her mother had entered her room. She looked intently through the lenses at her mother and as she did, she felt a warm breeze that seemed to ruffle the bed covers and blew sweetly through her hair. She saw soft sky blues and the delicate white of scuttling clouds, and her heart filled with love and serenity. Moriah sat down on Molly’s bed and leaned in to look closely at her daughter. Through the lenses, Molly’s eyes were so hugely magnified that Moriah laughed aloud as Molly stared back at her.
“What do you see, my love?” Moriah asked quizzically.“I’m not sure exactly,” Molly replied. “It’s as if I see and feel things all at the same time. I have never, ever felt anything like this before. I am not scared by what I see and feel … they are just a pair of old glasses after all, and I don’t think they can hurt me in any way. I just wonder why I see what I see. Everything is different when I put them on, like I am seeing things in a new and different way. When you came in just now, and I looked at you through the glasses, it was as if I saw you for the first time. I saw you, but I saw you deeper … I sensed that there were bright and moving colors that surround you, colors that I have never noticed before and I felt you deeper, differently than ever, and in my heart I felt love, happiness, and safety.” Removing the spectacles, Molly handed them to her mother. Moriah held them lovingly, turning them over in her hand for a moment, and then placed them tenderly down on the quilt next to Molly.
Moriah had listened closely as her daughter spoke before saying, “The spectacles you found today were lost long ago, just as your father told you they were. They belonged to my Grandmother Ethel. She was so very old when they were lost and she was never quite the same without them.”
Moriah stopped speaking for an instant as she suddenly recollected a vivid dark memory from a time long past when Grandmother Ethel had come to visit her and Ari shortly after their marriage. It had been a lovely spring day and she and Grandmother Ethel had been busy planting seedlings in the newly plowed earth of the garden. She remembered the sweet sounds of birds chirping in the sun-filled sky and then an abrupt and eerie silence as the birds stopped their song. Then came the roar of staccato blasts of rapid-fire gunshots that shattered the stillness all around them. She could hear just as loudly the terrified screams that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Moriah could almost feel again the firmness of her grandmother’s hand clasped tightly in hers as they began to run forward and away towards shelter. Her heart began to beat a little more rapidly as the memory of that horrible day returned with crystal clarity, reminding her in that moment of the instant that her grandmother’s spectacles were lost forever.
Moriah sighed deeply and looked at Molly cradled softly amid the quilts on her bed. Her eyes were misty as she worked to push away the memories that she would never give to her child. Then she smiled gently and taking a short calming breath, she continued on. “Before they were lost there was never a day that I can remember when she didn’t have her spectacles perched on the tip of her nose. I don’t know if it was the spectacles that made Grandmother Ethel special but my grandmother had an insight into people that was truly amazing. She was gifted in many other ways as well. She understood the natural world and used its bounty for the benefit of her family, friends, and neighbors. Her curatives were sought after and her wisdom was respected. My grandmother learned her craft from her mother Chaya and Chaya from her mother Dobrisha, and so forth … back and back as far as you can imagine. The women of our family have always been strong in spirit. Our traditions, our stories, our individual talents, and our connection to one another — it’s like a ribbon through time. I think your Great-Grandmother Ethel would be delighted that you found her spectacles. Each time you use them I think you will feel that special connection to her and to all the women in our family, especially those women whose names you share, and that’s the ribbon that holds us all together.
“And now, my sweet girl, it’s time for sleep, and while you sleep, dream of all the thirty-five women who share their names with you, and know that you are especially loved.” Molly was soothed by what her mother had said and so happy to be reminded once again of all the women whose names she had been given, and she smiled as she looked deeply into her mother’s eyes. Moriah bent forward and kissed her daughter’s warm cheek. “Goodnight,” she whispered, and picking up her lantern she turned and walked to the door, closing it behind her with a soft click.
Molly lay back among her pillows but she could not sleep. Her head was too full of excitement from the events of the day and the story that her mother had told her. Sitting up in bed, she reached once again for the glasses that lay next to her on top of her blanket. The metal was cool in her hand. I wonder what Great-Grandmother Ethel would think if she knew I had found her glasses, would she tell me how to use them and explain what I see and feel? … I must be very like her for the glasses to work for me, Molly reasoned to herself. Great-Grandma Ethel loved the garden and watching things grow as much as I do, and I am named for her and so many others. Am I like them too? she wondered.
Returning to her pillows, Molly’s eyelids began to droop. Soon she was fast asleep, and as she slept, she saw Laurie playing piano and Francis teaching school and Pearl singing as she turned the pages of a book, and all the other women were singing too, a song Molly knew more than any other. In the morning, when Molly awoke, she knew that there was so much more she needed to discover and the seeds of a plan were beginning to grow.