Friday, March 20, 2015

I'll have this scar on my chin forever




I have this scar on my chin.

It tells the story of a childhood played out against a backdrop of cold, white snow and ice and hills and mountains. 

I was 3 when it happened. At least that's what I remember being told. Too bad my mom didn't have a blog.

I was sledding with my older sisters and some neighborhood kids and our beagle mutt, Victor, in a meadow behind our house. I don't know what month it was. Was it cold or mild? I am guessing it was cold, after a thaw, because the snow was crusty and aggressive. The kind of snow that growls and fights back when you step on it, and bites and cuts at any bare skin.

Victor used to get excited at the sight of small children flying down the hill. Funny, our former dog, Ruby, did this and our current dog, Birdie, does this as well. It must be instinct. The instinct to protect, to herd. But maybe they are just confused about our sudden, seemingly-magic propulsion. Confused or jealous.

Victor chased us, barking wildly, and bit at our clothes with manic, snapping jaws--often grabbing hold of snow-caked woolen mittens and pulling them off. I'm not sure if I remember it happening, or if my memory is stolen from my siblings retelling of the story, but, Victor got hold of my sleeve as I was moving down the hill and pulled me out of my cold, aluminum flying saucer.

I lurched, face first, into the crust-- face plant-- and emerged-- or did my sister's pluck me out--crying and bloody. The fun ruined, we marched-- a trail of tears-- back across the meadow toward home. This is the part I feel I do remember. In my mind's eye, I see myself--snot-nosed from blubbering, and bleeding-- walking across that endless field to find my mother.

I ended up in the blue clapboard home/office of our family doctor, Doc Harwood. Doc Harwood pulled me and all five of my siblings into this world. Doc Harwood drove with my parents to the hospital each time my mother went into labor. Dad in the driver's seat. Doc Harwood in the passenger seat. My mother in the back, laboring quietly, while Dad and Doc discussed sports and politics, and ignored her.

Doc Harwood and his unforgettable, bristly-caterpillar eyebrows and grinding-gear voice, cleaned and stitched the wound on my chin. Thankfully, I have no recollection of that.

Joe Markey, my father's best friend, joked that Doc Harwood might have used a backhoe to do the stitching job. The scar he left behind is not pretty--it looks rumpled where it straddles my jaw bone-- but it's mine.
Ever tried to take a flattering selfie of your chin? #startingtofeelbadaboutmyneck

My childhood boyfriend had a striking, far more impressive than mine, scar on his cheek near his jawline. I used to think the fact that we both had facial scars, acquired in early childhood, connected and protected us somehow.

I have no problem with the flaw of my scar. Many people don't even see it. But I love it when someone does notice. Because then I get to tell the story, my story, of my "big" sledding accident. I'm proud of my adventurous childhood in the snow and ice.

Isla, 9,  said the same thing about her scar recently. I told her that when she was finished growing, plastic surgeons from Shriners Hospital could make her burn scars less visible. Having been a patient, she is considered a member of the "Shriners family" until she is 21.

"I don't want them to make my scars look better, she said. I like my scars.  I like when people ask me about my scars. It makes me feel special."