Memory Scars

horseshoe crab, creating with horseshoe crab, creative bucket, homemade basket, boy on beach, blue shirt, carrying shells, beach treasuresScar. The word feels negative, ugly, damaged, but our scars tell stories of our lives, they mark our bodies with visible memories. The life events that engraved themselves upon us in scars are not usually positive and pretty, they can represent deep pain and profound endurance, but they can also remind us of our gifts, our strengths and our humanity.

Growing up, we tritely feel and behave as if we’re indestructible, but as children, our scars teach us about our bodies in space: how high can we climb, when to release on a rope swing, the importance of knee pads. I have two skid marks 20 years after my first attempt at rollerblading. (Lessons: don’t wear roller blades 3 sizes too big and don’t ride through the sandy spots.)

My perfect little boy’s face has a small stripe across the bridge of his nose. In a creative spurt, I made a scavenger hunt for my daughter and son (then six and four) and while searching for a bug, they discovered a hidden shovel that a contractor had left behind. As I turned to look, I saw my daughter try to maneuver the too-big shovel, slip it off the hard ground and strike my son’s face as he leaned over inquisitively. (Lesson: hmmm, move fast if you see a small kid with a big shovel.) Michael’s nose scar is a part of him now, it’s more subtle as the years pass, but sometimes we remember the day when “Ali hit me with a shovel.”

cupcakes, blue and yellow cupcakes, flower cupcakes, flower baking, beautiful cupcakesI have a new scar, on the inside of my forearm, my Anna’s-8th-birthday-scar from burning myself while baking her cupcakes. Then there’s my scar-of-conflict-and-gratitude low across my abdomen. I didn’t want the cesarean section surgery, but Michael was breech, it was in pre-internet days (we actually went to the library to try to learn how to help him flip head down), and doctor’s no longer learn or practice breech delivery. I mourned the loss of the birth I wanted, but that scar, that neat line, brought me my sweet son.

There are mastectomy scars that tell of survival, chest scars that remind their owners to be thankful for each day, wrist scars illustrating life’s bottoms and wretched pains. There are scars from car accidents, soldiers returning from war, youthful fighting, torturous fires that carve personal struggles into flesh. There are scars of disappointment, abuse, stupidity, heroism, choice, adventure, ceremony, disaster, exploration, rage.

From athletes to organ transplants, silly insignificances to horrors unimaginable, scars notch memories. Like a memory, a scar may fade with time or it may remain vivid and imprinted, it may be hidden and private, or blatantly visible.

What have your scars taught you? What do they represent in your life?

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5 Responses to Memory Scars

  1. Janie says:

    I am so proud of your writing and your thoughts….did I do something right or am I just lucky?

  2. […] and have me do it. It makes me happy to create a special cake for him. This year, I have a new scar on my inner arm from baking my youngest’s cupcakes, an odd little reminder of her eighth […]

  3. I have 4 scars (soon to be 5) across my abdomen from birthing my children. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I have several on my knees from brutal bike crashes as a child. And I have one down the middle of my forehead because I neglected a sore that wouldn’t heal and it turned out to be skin cancer. Had I dealt with it in a timely fashion it would barely be noticeable unlike the huge scar I have today.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Hmm, I didn’t even see a scar on your forehead! But wow, what stories, thanks for sharing the stories that your scars tell.

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