Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America

Mother and I went to visit Nell and her mother.  We desired  to go today because Nell’s grandmother is going to be with them for several weeks.  She is quite a changed person Nell’s mother told Mother.   Nell’s grandmother was having difficulty seeing things that were close to her.  She enjoyed crocheting and made very delicate trim for petticoats and handkerchiefs.  Nell and I know how to crochet but Nell’s grandmother moved her fingers so rapidly, we could not follow her work.

Her vision began failing and she could no longer crochet such fine pieces.  She stopped reading to Nell’s little brother and sister.   Nell said her grandmother made up the stories by looking at the pictures in the storybook and not by reading the words on the page.  She grew very sad.  Nell’s mother arranged for the grandmere to  receive some eyeglasses.  I wonder what she will look like and if they hurt.  No one in our family has glasses.  Josh wears his glasses from time to time.  Brent does not have any.  I am afraid that Josh will misplace his glasses because he forgets everything!

Nell’s grandmother did not want a lorgnette.  The lorgnette has two lenses in a frame that must be held by a lateral handle.  She wished to have both her hands free so she could do her fancy thread work.  She was not at all concerned that her appearance might be altered by wearing glasses with a frame.  They are held on by double hinged side pieces that are placed over the ears. My older sister said she would rather squint than wear glasses all the time.  Nell and I tried on the glasses and it made me think I was going to tip over.  It is good to see Nell’s grandmother happy and busily working with her crochet hook and thread again.  Sometimes when she was crocheting, Nell and I would take turns reading to her.  However, today she wanted to read to us.

* Benjamen Franklin in the 1780’s developed the bifocal. Later he wrote, “I therefore had formerly two pairs of spectacles, which I shifted occasionally, as in traveling I sometimes read, and often wanted to regard the prospects. Finding this change troublesome, and not always suffficiently ready, I had the glasses cut and a half of each kind associated in the same circle. By this means, as I wear my own spectacles constantly, I have only to move my eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or near, the proper glasses being always ready.

by Mary Beekman

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