I have a jagged checkmark on my forehead, from hitting my head on our wooden coffee table when I was three. Six months later, I walked into a wall. Both required stitches.
These days, my parents would be questioned in the emergency room. The doctor would carefully look into their eyes to see if they are hiding something. But really, it happened that way. I’ve always been more about speed than grace.
There’s an inch-long mark on my right shin, from Cristobal, our Saint Bernard. We have pictures of him—he had long hair. I must have cried when he bit me. We still lived in California at the time, so I was young. My mother later insisted the scar was not from the dog but from a bike accident. But I don’t remember it that way, I see the scar and I think about the dog. I don’t remember a bike. Afterwards, my parents sent Cristobal away to a farm.
In fifth grade, one sweaty summer afternoon when the neighborhood kids were all standing around, Gary L’s reflector broke on his bike. He threw the jagged piece into the woods, but it hit me first. Tiny, tiny dent above my right brow.
Two more faint scars on my knees after skinny dipping in Norway Pond. It was dark, my mother had come out to find me in the car—I took the turn on my bike at the bottom of the driveway too fast. She never bandaged me up, she was so mad. Not about the skinny dipping, she didn’t know about that—she was just angry about me being on my bike after dark.
Everyone should have a few good pencil-lead marks—I have two. One just above my belly button, from a fight my brother M. and I had doing crossword puzzles, arguing over something. Another mark in the web between my thumb and pointer finger on my left hand. I was getting dressed for cheerleading at an away basketball game in seventh grade, and reached into my bag for my monogrammed sweater. Stuck my hand into a pencil instead.
Those are from the early years. The later scars are deeper, more prominent: Time has not had a chance to fade them. A jagged scar on my back from a mole removed three times. They tried to cut out the abnormal, find the clean edges. The doctor admired that scar, says it healed nicely. Diagnosis for that day: skin benign.
A spot in my breast where they took a lump—also benign.
One from when my son D. was the last kid at day care one night, and seeing my car speed into the parking lot at 5:58 pm, he ducked down to hide, and cut above his own eye on the window frame.
Now that D. is 17, afternoons are long when he is gone, out working, or with his girlfriend, or at football practice. There’s quiet in the house. He’s no longer tugging at my pants leg asking me to to shoot pucks on him, or play baseball, or dinosaurs.
I have a long, thin scar on my right knee from when my sister and I moved my dad from one nursing home to another. Somehow, I tore my jeans on a light post when lifting him into the car from his wheelchair. Eventually, we couldn’t transfer him anymore.
You feel some of these scars more at the holidays.
Even if you’re surrounded by family, laughing over raspberry Jell-O salad with mini marshmallows that your mother always made. You make it every holiday, no matter what, even though no one truly knows if it is a salad or a dessert. Suddenly, you have become the great aunt, or the grandmother, with new toddlers running around the legs of the table.
You believe that raspberry salad, or the sweet yams in orange cups, or your mother’s stuffing, will fill that emptiness in the heart chakra. That void in the solar plexus.
I’m told that those scars will fade over time. I’m still waiting for that.
This picture is of me and Cristobal at Lake Camanche, 1972. The shadow is my mom.