“A scar means, I survived.”
- - Quote from Little Bee, from the book Little Bee by Chris Cleave
A round dot on my upper lip. I got that when I had the chicken pox when I was about five.
One on my knee. I was running in a field day race at the middle school in Japan and I fell and skidded into the gravel just after I crossed the finish line.
One that traverses my left forearm. That was a suspicious mole that my dermatologist biopsied.
One that crosses my abdomen. I’m probably most proud of it. I got it on October 10, 2000, the day I became a mother. On that day Audrey also got a scar. When the doctor cut into my abdomen the blade went through my skin and uterus and placenta and penetrated all the way to her sweet little face. He nicked her right on the edge of her lip and she was born bleeding. The doctors stitched her up and now the scar is just barely visible but when I look closely I can see it, and I remember the day she and I got our matching scars.
My scars would fall into a category I have come to think of as “surface scars”. They’re surface-level scars that were caused by accident or injury or illness, and as soon as the skin healed I was fine again. The damage healed completely.
This summer while the kids were with Buddy in China I took a class that was held at the Tennessee Prison for Women. Each Wednesday evening I spent a couple of hours in the prison with my inside classmates and we studied how to affect change through civic engagement.
But really, I studied them.
I was fascinated by their scars. I realized that their scars were different from mine.
These women do not have surface scars. Their scars run deep because they aren’t the result of an injury or an illness or an accident. They got these scars because someone intentionally and maliciously hurt them.
I call these “deep scars”. They penetrate far beyond the skin and stab their silvery veins into the heart and soul of the victim. With time the skin might heal but the injury to the heart remains much longer. It takes months or years to heal … in fact I’m wondering if it ever does.
Although I’m sure my professor Christin would give me a passing grade for the class, I would give myself an F. Because the point of the class was to learn how to achieve change through civic engagement. Yet at the end of the class, I feel less able to change my environment than I did when I started.
I wish I could change the fact that mothers leave and fathers die, but I can’t.
I wish I could change our broken foster care system, but I can’t.
I wish I could change the fact that some women choose really shitty boyfriends, but I can’t.
I wish I could change the fact that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, but I can’t.
I feel so helpless about all of that. And so I sit here and run my finger back and forth, back and forth across the smooth silver scar on my left forearm.
And it occurs to me that Little Bee was right, scars do mean we survived.
But that doesn’t mean that we’re okay.
Or that we ever will be again.