Forty Stitches and Beautiful

At four years old, I cut my face open on a drainpipe in the backyard at my friend's birthday party. We were chasing around the yard playing tag when I tripped and fell against the side of the house.

I don't remember much; only a few snapshots. I remember not getting up immediately after I had fallen down and that was strange--I just laid there. Mercifully, the shock leaves no memory of the pain. Next, I have two still-photo memories of my friends; one of concerned little faces as one girl tentatively asked "Jana, are you ok?" and one of them with terrified faces as I rolled over to face them and they screamed and ran to get the mothers.

Then, a very clear memory of being held tightly by my friend's mother, with an ice pack on my face. She sat in a wicker-seated oak rocking chair--one of those with the big, round rockers that were so dangerous for your toes as a kid. She held me, prayed loudly and vociferously, and rocked manically until my parents got there. I felt frozen. I think I cried at this point, but it was more because everyone's reactions were so scary.

They arrived in my dad's work truck, the white one with burgundy upholstery. It always smelled like tar from the roofing company. My mom held me and my dad, white-faced because he can't stand blood, drove. They went to 3 doctors, all of whom took one look at me and refused to admit me, saying it had to be done a plastic surgeon.

My parents were certainly far from rich--they had bought a house, and spent just about every available penny on the mortgage payments. Going out to eat for us usually meant going to McDonalds, where the happy meals were far out of our budget. Instead, we would get 3 cheeseburgers, and 2 fries between my parents and my little sister and I, with waters to drink. The friends who owned the house where the accident happened were not wealthy either, and I think my parents were trying to save their insurance a big hit.

But I am grateful for those General Practitioners saying no, as horrible as it might have felt at the time for my parents. They finally ended up at a plastic surgeon recommended by the last GP, and by late evening I was prepped and ready for surgery. Now I really remember crying, because the anasthetic needles were the most painful part about the whole ordeal. Shock covered the rest of the pain, apparently.

Of course, I don't remember anything clearly after that point, but apparently the surgeon stitched 3 layers of skin together with delicate dissolving filament, and the last layer got the Frankenstein treatment with the black filament. All told, forty stitches.

I got a lot of attention at sunday school for my creepy stitched face for a few weeks, and then the stitches were removed, and the skin gradually healed. A few months later, as I studied that lurid pink scar in the mirror, and flexed my face, appreciating the ability to move without any pulling or stretching, I realized that something was happening behind and slightly above the scar. The imperfection in the skin pulled slightly, causing a small, round indent to appear when I smiled. In a word, a dimple.

Now, just two years previously, a small sister had been born into my family. This small sister, from the moment she was brought into the world, had two of the cutest and most wonderful dimples ever seen on a child (or adult, for that matter). One of my mom's friends came to look at her in the newborn room and thought she had been born with holes in her cheeks. Those adorable dimples that almost never completely disappeared invited comments, squeals, and face-tweaks, which I'm sure Jessi would tell you is more trial than joy. 

I wasn't jealous--exactly. But it was impossible not to notice and feel just a teensy bit inferior for being taller, less cute, and dimple-less. But this is the lot of an eldest sibling, to be constantly surrounded by cuter and more guileless people. 

All the same, despite not being jealous--exactly, somehow in my four-year-old brain, some form of beauty was equivocated in being the owner of a muscle defect located in the vicinity of a smile, and I became ridiculously excited. I felt beautiful every time I saw that little shadow appear, northwest of my scar. 

I've been thinking about scars recently, because of Michaela Evanow's post on SheLoves Magazine, and because of listing to Tina Fey's Bossypants audiobook. Did you know her scar is from being slashed in the face when she was young? I like her response when people ask her about "getting it fixed"--it's just as much a part of who she is as her brown eyes or her witty writing skills. 

Had one of the GP's not said no, I could have ended up with a puckering, twisted scar. Instead,  The scar is smooth, almost imperceptible, and has never given me a moment's worry. Instead of feeling marked by tragedy, whenever I notice it I just see that little, hopeful dimple. This small imperfection is part of who I am--and scars healed can invoke a deeper beauty.

Photos from Natasha Komoda


knic pfost said…
i love this.

love love love.
jana.kaye said…
thanks for the love, knick knick knick.