Like Justyna, I had a microscope as a kid which sat on the shelf in its box. The great failing of microscopes is that you can only look at things on slides, which is really limiting, unless you like performing biopsies.
But I was also given a little handheld microscope, with a light, through which you could look at absolutely anything, and at quite impressive magnifications. It looked like this:
Those of you with children should go out and buy one of these RIGHT NOW. I don’t think any gadget from my childhood brought such prolonged educational joy. You can use it on the family dog, on things you find in the garden, your siblings, foodstuffs, and various parts of your own body. When I was a kid, I had a disgusting corn on the heel of my foot, and I would pass hours investigating it with this microscope. I also, less revoltingly, discovered that images in books are made up of tiny coloured circles thanks to the same device.
I still have this handheld microscope, and as an adult have used it to investigate all kinds of moles and ingrown hairs and various suspicious bugs.
Its most notable use was after a trip to the Pittwater YHA with Anthony many moons ago. We acquired an alarming number of ticks while we were there, and spent the evenings removing them with the special tweezers the YHA supplied for just this purpose (GROSS!). When we returned to Simmons Street, I noticed I had a little pimple on my head, and over several days, fiddled and picked at it, to no avail. Eventually I asked Anthony to inspect it with the microscope. I remember his fateful words: “It’s moving.”
That is correct. A tick had lodged itself into my skull, and I had been idly playing with it for days.
I feel like this post has made me sound like a revolting human being. But I can assure you, under a microscope, we all are.