Young Skin is Thin, So Where are the Nurses?
“Tell me about your scar”, requests my daughter. “Tell me about when you were little”. She wants details. She wants revelation. She wants new stories to churn about and imagine.
We’ve calmed down from her head slamming on the stairs ten minutes prior. The slap of her narrow forehead on our wooden step still reverberates through my own head. Despite our efforts with ice, a purple bruise flowers with an enormous egg of a bump. Motherhood is sometimes, near-constant wincing.
“Did you ever get hurt?” She searches my face for a sign or mark, wanting to connect through any injury. My hand goes right to the place. This scar is more than thirty-years old and before Arizona drugstores carry Mederma. Any fading is thanks to time, the sun, and my mother smearing on the vitamin E goop from inside those football-shaped capsules. She’d puncture the gelatin with her teeth and spread on that heavy liniment across the left side of my forehead. It felt and smelled so heavy, it could have been whale oil. I wore it nightly.
“Can I touch it? What happened?” My little girl, at four, is nearly the age I was when I fell. I was also a spunky, thin girl, interested in dance, movement, and giggling. These things all occur on the couch with jumping. My hair is piled in a knot. I wear a white dress of eyelet, made by my mother.
The story is this: I am bouncing on a couch in a living room, somewhere. It is a sectional couch, the shape of an “L”. A glass coffee table composed of glass corners, glass on two shelves, sits in the middle. I bounce. I squeal. I catapult too high to land on my feet. I do not even clear the couch. I am a high dive jumper, just a speck in the sky, graceful at first, until then the realization that I will not land in the miniature pool of water.
My forehead careens with the table corner. I imagine whacking the table in two clean pieces like a little Bruce Lee, but the only damaged piece is me. Forehead skin is thin. Even now, I pinch it, and it is little more than card stock. The only skin thinner may be eyelid.
A forehead can bleed. Like really, really. We steal into our Volvo for a drive to the emergency room; we drive quickly; my skull peaks out. Nurses are not available. I am confused; isn’t this a hospital? Our assigned doctor knights my parents “temporary, it’ll have to do” nurses, clothing them with the cursory blue scrubs, and the three begin the job.
“I want you at her feet”, he says to my father. It is game day and this ER doc is Coach. “You”, he tersely directs my mother, “stand behind her head, and hold down her shoulders and arms”. There is not a lot of time for encouraging and collecting feedback in the ER. Work with what you have”, might be their slogan.
They do not provide any sedative, or local anesthetic. Poor mom holds a flailing freaking, wailing girl with lots and lots of blood. He might have been on stitch four, or maybe not even the second, but my mother, begins to slack. She starts to faint, slowly descending to the waxed veneer of Tucson hospital tile.
She curves and spirals as if hit not he head with a comedic plank, all the while, chanting this like a dumb cartoon octopus “Would sommmmmmmmeboddddddy pleeeeeease helllllppppppp meeeeeeeeee.” Crash. We lose our makeshift nurse. Somebody shoves smelling salts under her nose and carts her overtaxed senses to a room.
Doc finishes my stitches, covering his work with a Band-aid. Dad and I set off to procure my mom. By the time we find her in her private room, I can smile, Snoopy balloon tied to my thin wrist, and Dad holding my other hand.
“What happened to you?” I ask. She hit her head so hard, it was a real concussion. We wait around some more before she receives the okay to leave.
This is the story I tell my girl as she balances on my lap, ice on her own hurting spot. She is now part of my history, the memoir of my flesh. I touch the place those stitches tied up my little kid skin. It still hurts. Is this scar tissue?
Despite the trauma, maybe it’s good to have a scar, I think. To have met something head on, a trade for a story to hand down. I make it my “be careful, as this is why we must never jump on couch” speech, turning up the details of bone and blood. I relay it with hilarity at my mom and her one shot at nursing. It can be whatever I want. It is my scar, the history of vitamin E on a little girl, and all the jumping around glass.
She gazes at our sectional “L” sofa, eyes shiny, a-squint with plans. Our coffee table is not glass, but wood. They are up, scrambling to play, leaving the ice pack abandoned, soggy tissue clinging. I put it back for the next collision.
What are your childhood scars or marks from teen years? What are the marks you’ll tell your kids about?