In the book The Hunger Games, the protagonist, Katniss, wakes up and finds all of her scars have been removed. My reaction surprised me. Parting with some of mine would be like losing old friends.
I want to keep my scars.
The other side of me relishes the thought of having perfect skin, especially as I approach another birthday. Having an unblemished epidermis does appeal to me for a fleeting moment.
Scars have meaning.
History left its mark upon my flesh and there is a story to tell. Believe me, this Wild Rider has more than a few.
I just looked for my oldest and favorite scar. It faded away! Many of them have been snatched in the night and replaced by zombie freckles. In the right light, I can see a shadow of where it remained for so many years, but I am probably imagining it. I still remember its story.
When I was five years old, my family lived in an apartment. Skateboarders loved our street because of the hill and lack of traffic. Some of my friends didn’t appreciate the teenagers that descended on our quiet neighborhood.
We made up a chant and hid behind the bushes. Then we shouted out to the older boys:
“Hey you skateboarders, think you’re so big! We don’t like you, so get off Ascot Lane!”
They laughed and ignored us.
Later, I watched them from the picture window. It looked like fun. My dad came home from work and offered his help. He built a skateboard out of metal roller skates and a two-by-four. He sanded the edges to make it look authentic.
Without any parental supervision, pads, or helmet, non-existent back in the day, I carried my new skateboard to the top of the hill.
I am sure that I took a deep breath and said, “I can do this!” One of the teenagers held the board for me. He pointed it downhill and gave me instructions. While balancing on top with my arms outstretched, he let go. I’m not sure how far I rolled on the board, but I do remember being airborne for several feet before landing on my left knee.
After limping back home, my mom applied a huge bandage. I don’t remember skateboarding down that huge hill again. I bet I yapped about my misadventure for weeks!
Many of my surface scars have stories to go with them: A fingernail scratch across the cheek from an impatient and very young friend, a kite string across the bridge of my nose, several puncture wounds, and stitches. Each is like a page from my life. The wounds may have been painful and others limited me for a while, but somehow they made me stronger.
And an update in 2017.
Since writing this post years ago, scars have been added across my chest after double boobectomies and one down my knee and thigh from partial knee replacement. The irony? I used the same Katniss Everdeen photo for pulling myself out of depression after going off oxycontin a week after knee surgery. Would I miss those scars? They could be a bit smaller, but I don’t mind the reminder of not only surviving but thriving.
They also remind me that I will never be perfect and that’s okay.
When I think of the scars on one’s soul, I can see where some would want them removed. The pain of the worst memories can haunt at the oddest of times. Thinking back, I have learned and been shaped by all of them. I am the sum total of all the recollections of my life. It’s what makes me, me.
Many years ago, a friend of mine suffered a head-on automobile collision and survived after being in a coma for weeks. He lost much of his memory and was never the same person again. His cocky confidence was replaced by an introverted stranger. I realized so much of who we are is stored in our memories.
Katniss didn’t have a choice in her scars’ removal. I would be reluctant to part with mine whether they are on the surface or in my soul. They all have a story to tell. No one is perfect. When I look at my body and its scars, I smile.
Would you part with yours?
Photos from Wikimedia Commons
Self-portrait illustration by Susie Lindau