It started out innocently. My partner, Steven, was sent a novelty eyeball in a care package from a loved one back home in Texas. The eyeball was bigger than a real eye, kind of bloated and white, with a piercing blue iris painted on. It was a weird gift.
When I saw it the first time, it reminded me of Dona’s sapphire eyes, although they could register emerald or hazel on occasion. “It depends on my mood,” she would say, and her mood wasn’t always sunny. Sometimes it was downright mean. You could see trouble coming through her eyes, the pupils like ice.
Well, my sister, my baby sister, came to live with me once. She had been in a world that she needed to get out of. I had told her that things could be better, and amazingly, she agreed.
Once at our home, she and I got to talking about Dona quite a bit. We both had strong feelings about her, not always pleasant. Our conversations reminded me of the eyeball, and I located it among Steven’s treasures. She knew it immediately. It was Dona’s eye – our mother’s eye. 
After that, if we had something we would like to say to our mother, we spoke to the eyeball. Often we flung it across the room. Sometimes one of us hid it in a drawer or cupboard where the other would be certain to find it in the course of the daily routine. I would move cautiously to once-safe spaces, just in case the Dona eye might be waiting for me in the shower, or the coffee pot, or a dresser drawer. We would cackle with delight when the eye was discovered. This went on for some time until Mother told us she was experiencing problems with, well, her eyes. 
She had pressure. She had eyesight changes. She eventually ended up having one eye replaced with a well-crafted replica of the original. She told us that the eye doctor had never seen a more beautiful eye color and had talked about how difficult it was to match it to the other.
My sister and I listened to the story with a bit of guilt, knowing that we had been flinging her eyeball at each other. And then our mother died.
This Christmas I got a package from my sister, who moved out years ago. Inside was an eye, a glass eyeball, with a cadaverously hued glass eyelid. At first, I thought it was Mother’s actual eye, stolen from her corpse. But thankfully, upon closer examination, I could see that it wasn’t. The blue was wrong.
When I talked to my sister, who we sometimes call Little Dona, on New Year’s, I learned that an artist had created this eyeball.
“Do you really like the eye?” she said.  
“No,” I replied.
“Well, send it back!” 
As I ponder the potential punishment I may receive after she gets it in the mail, I also wonder what her reaction would have been if I had sent her the same gift at Christmas – an artisan (and possibly expensive) eye to add to her curio cabinet.
I can hear it now: “Seriously? An eyeball? What a weird gift.”

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Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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