Bright Eyes
Marjorie Carlson Davis

I n 1935, when she is three, her parents call her Bright Eyes. She is a precocious child. Her brain coordinates with her lips to form complex words and sentences; her chubby arms and legs whirl with energy and motion; and, though she doesn't know what her future will bring, it is there, stretched out before her like a meadow, filled with bright sunlight, wildflowers, and weeds.

She doesn't know now that she'll live through the end of the depression, World War II, the Vietnam War; that she'll marry, give birth to two daughters, spend 25 years as a teacher; that her life will be, for the most part, happy. She doesn't know that at age 66, her brain will stop coordinating with her lips, her arms and legs will be paralyzed with tremors; that she'll find herself in a nursing home where aides fuss over her body, arguing with each other, saying, "Don't raise her legs too high. Remember, no part higher than another." She doesn't know that her husband, daughters, and grandchildren will sit silently in her room, stunned by grief.

No, none of that now. It's Halloween, and her mother dresses her in a frilly white frock, curls her brown hair into ringlets like Shirley Temple's. Bright Eyes toddles into the living room, holds one chubby, dimpled arm in the air, and opens her mouth to sing.

First published: November 2000