In an idle moment I sit staring at my finger. Wasn't there a scar on that one? Where a slipping putty knife ... I'll spare you the details. The point is that I had to look long and hard to find a trace of that ugly scar from not all that many years ago.
I turn my attention to my knees. One puckery scar from early girlhood is still there, much smaller now than it was fifty some years ago, and the other is gone entirely. Once upon a time I recalled the occasions on which I skinned those knees, even to the perverse pleasure of picking at the scabs until they eventually flaked off to reveal fresh pink skin underneath. I still recall picking at the scabs, and the pain of having the knees scrubbed clean and swabbed with red-orange merthiolate, but the specifics of the wounds are long forgotten.
A small scar on my left jaw is an inch away that its original location. That one is the reminder — when I look in my side-view mirror — of the cyst that settled there, the cyst that I passed off to a curious fourth-grade classmate as a mosquito bite. He didn’t buy that. That “bite” lasted for several months before my mother took me to the doctor in Santa Fe to have it removed.
A scar on my left inner forearm remains much as it has for nearly fifty years and reminds me of the day less than a week before my wedding when I was helping my father tie springs in a chair Mother was reupholstering. A spring slipped, gashing my arm as it flew forth, leaving something resembling the “quality check” mark on Darigold milk cartons. My father put his quality check mark on me, I decided.
I scan my shins. Which one has the nick from the corner of the dishwasher door? The nick that occurred one evening when we’d had company for dinner. I’d forgotten that both shins now have dishwasher door nicks. Which is which? I no longer remember, but the story lives on.
When I lift my bangs and hold my forehead up to the light, I can still see the faintest reminder of the day I thought I could stop a huge log rolling down the hill behind our house by grabbing the protruding limb. The log weighed nearly as much as I do, and the trip to the ER for stitches took hours, and they wouldn’t let my husband come into the examination room with me. “Sometimes people talk more freely without family members present,” was the explanation that not so subtly suggested that there could be another cause for this wound. I understood, and I'm still indignant, fifteen years later.
How fascinating. Over time, most scars fade and shrink, but their stories live on. Our scars may be nature’s way of carving our stories into our very bodies, creating visual reminders we won’t soon forget.
Write now: conduct a tour of your scars. Record the story of each one and tell how you feel about the scar today. Do you hide it? Flaunt it? Resent it? Or maybe it’s a trophy?