When it came to Hide and Seek in the neighborhood, I was a contender. My go-to move would be to crawl into a small space and maintain composure, stifling any hint of giggle as the seeker was just inches away. One summer afternoon, my hiding skills were tested when no such spaces existed. A few kids chose the shed, but that seemed too obvious. Some faster ones hid on the side of the house, surveying the distance and knowing they could outrun the seeker. Speed was not on my list of assets. Knowing my climbing skills were on par, I instead chose a tall tree in the front yard.
I scaled the tree koala style, wrapping my arms and legs around the trunk as I shimmied up the scratchy bark. Finally perched at the top, I was satisfied with my aerial view of the yard. From my vantage point I watched kid after kid reach home base, but I still kept waiting to hear, “Olly olly oxen free!” When that coveted phrase never came, it became clear that I needed an exit strategy. As the seeker disappeared on one side of the house, I carefully began to climb back down. My plan was foiled when the seeker doubled back and saw my descent. My feet betrayed me and I slid the length of the tree, howling as the bark ripped through shorts and skin. My screeches warded off my would-be tagger but drew the immediate attention of a neighbor. As she hoisted me into her arms and raced across the street to my house, the sense of urgency and looks of panic from adults caused me more alarm than the steady stream of crimson. The words “hospital” and “stitches” floated around my head as I was lowered into the bathtub. My last flash of memory is that my favorite pair of green shorts, with “Soccer” down the sides, was now ruined.
The memory of that day remains vivid with the visual reminder of the pale four-inch line on my left thigh. I will work to conceal blemishes, and I’d rather wear a Snoopy band-aid than have a cut or scrape exposed and scabbing, but my scars are permanent breaks to perfection. They may fade over the years, but they cannot all be concealed. My elbows and knees sport pale patches from numerous falls. My left shin has the faintest remnant of a painful skateboarding incident. The tiny divet at the end of my right eyebrow is a lasting reminder of my impatience with chicken pox. Not all of my scars have a significant story, but they are all an accepted part of my imperfection.
Scars are the tatoos of life. Each one has a story. A fish hook to the arm. A skateboard wipeout. A football mishap. They’re a badge of survival, as the skin rejuvenates its protective barrier. It knits a web of tissue to cover the exposed hurt. At first it’s new and pink, but over the years it will blend in with the other skin and become just another part of you.
Internal scars are so much easier to conceal. A ready smile, a quick laugh and head nods serve as band-aids to keep the wounds hidden. Shared laughter and jokes carry us through our days and build friendships, but I’ve had relationships deepen when people can reveal their struggles. I’ve had meaningful conversations last an hour while standing in a parking lot. One offhand comment about the past resulted in a discussion through the early morning hours that had the depth of years. These moments are so raw and beautiful when we stop worrying about perception and reveal our inner turmoil. When people open up and reveal how imperfect their lives are, it’s a relief on both sides.
I’ve always viewed my physical scars as tales of adventure. The Tree Climbing Caper. The Skateboarding Saga. The Fence-Jumping Feat. Only recently have I learned to view my internal scars in the same way. Sometimes life is pretty, joyful and full of smiles, but it’s equally marred with ugliness, strife and scowls. When people open up and reveal how imperfect their lives are, I’m both relieved and endeared to them. That’s as much a part of this adventure as any physical feat I have endured.