Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Scars

I am building a new crop of scars as I write--a half moon on my inside left calf, with a series of oozing constellations mirrored on both legs. Poison ivy designed the scene, aided and abetted by my eventual inability to resist the overwhelming urge to apply long fingernails to the blisters. I have rarely felt anything as glorious as those brief seconds of relief from the infernal itching! Besides, since I encountered the ivy to begin with in the midst of an absolutely perfect family vacation, I can hardly complain. I scar easily, it seems, and the scars leave a map of my life on my skin, prompting memories, odd snapshots of random moments frozen in time.

Not far from the emerging constellations rests the scar of a small hole in my shin. I was five, running down the street with my friend Jenny in Vermilion, South Dakota. Jenny was my first best friend, and we played together whenever our mothers met for church functions. That day, while our mothers chatted or baked bread or planned some now long-forgotten event, we took Jenny's little sister for a dash in her stroller. The stroller hit a bump, stopped dead, and up in the air I flew, only to land quite precisely on a small, pointy rock. Jenny moved a year or two later, but I think of her now and again and wonder what sidewalks she has jogged since that 1970s summer afternoon.

My ring finger sports a battle scar from a round lost to a small pot of startlingly hot tea water. College summers found me working in some of America's most beautiful vacation spots. I cooked Rocky Mountain oysters for drunken lodge guests near Yellowstone, brewed endless pots of coffee to welcome wealthy fisherfolk to the brilliance of early June mornings in the Alaskan bush, and served tea to the more sedate guests at a Vermont country inn on the lakeshore. Truth be told, I was a rather terrible waitress. Still, I loved the scenery and the people I met. On misty mornings, Brenda and I brewed our own steaming cups of herb tea and settled into Adirondack chairs on the wide porch to contemplate the waves lapping the beach and the splendid freedom of the early blush of adult life.

Other scars tell perfectly mundane stories of trays of chocolate chip cookies placed a little too close to the top rack of the oven or the new (to us) television Brad and I carried up a flight of stairs. Only a few scars, like the white cross on my forehead, bring the memory of pain. The rest remind me of a rich life filled with the laughter of family game nights, breathtaking discoveries of beauty, and the warmth of friendships. I thank God for the sweet memories, made all the sweeter by lessons of the white cross.

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