A scar is born

Sofia Helin as Saga Norén, wearing her scars with pride

I have this tiny scar on my face, just under my lip where my little girl Amelia accidentally hurled an iPad in my direction during our last summer holiday in a lakeside town.

I was half asleep, lying on the bed, so I wasn’t ready for the force of the blow; I could not defend myself as the sharp corner of the device crashed into my face, leaving a deep hole in its wake.

My hands flew up to my chin in shock, and when I removed them I saw the unmistakable red of my own blood, pouring from the wound onto my fingers, and marring the whitest of white sheets (not my own). My god there was a lot of it.

I screamed. Amelia ran.

Frantic, I ran my finger inside my mouth to make sure that my teeth were intact. My nails sought confirmation of structural safety as they travelled gingerly along my gums.

My choppers were okay; my gums were torn but I did not lose any teeth that day.

The women in the local chemist looked dubious at my claims of a close encounter with an iPad of the flying kind. Unbelievably, it was a first for them in the town. How very modern and high tech of me to present with a wound attained in such a way.

They took one look at me and sized up my predicament – band aids and steri-strips would not suffice here, only stitches would do. I was packed off to an ancient GP practicing at the medical centre around the corner.

I was seen to immediately and I thought ‘Oh no, what is this decrepit man with the shaky hands going to do to my face? I’ll walk out of here looking like Frankenstein’s monster”. So vain, so very vain.

But he was in fact a master surgeon in pensioner’s clothing. As I lay on the exam bed in his office, I glanced up to survey the official-looking papers framed there, a lifelong testament to his expertise in greater things than minor cuts and abrasions.

Three stitches later, his exceptional needle work was done. My face was swollen and numb from the solution used to dull the pain of the stitching, but at last the bleeding had abated. Outside the cool, sea-breeze was a gentle salve to my traumatised face.

Amelia didn’t make eye contact with me for 24 hours after her mighty swinging action set the events of the morning in motion. Shame and fear drove her from me.

But slowly she made her way back, drawn to the black stitches protruding from below my lip, fascinated by the sharp feel of them. I let her touch them and talked to her softly about what they were.

Emboldened by my sweet reception, she began play-acting the fateful moment that the iPad left her hands and slammed into my prone head.

As though it had happened to some other mother and daughter, Amelia mimed the story with great excitement and swashbuckling verve. The magnificent Jean-Louis Barrault would have applauded her artistry.

For me, the healing was better and more rapid than I had anticipated. With care, gums, mouth tissue and skin repair quickly and well. In time, Amelia stopped mentioning or performing the accident and I was not one to remind her.

The summer holiday rolled on and I got over it, in body and spirit. But I have this little souvenir – my tiny trail of a scar – to ponder sometimes in the mirror or when my hand strays to feel the slight indentation under my lip.

I really thought I would mind that mark, that I would resent the imperfection, but I have grown to appreciate its presence on the left side of my face.

It reminds me that in some ways my life is not what I thought or hoped that it would be. That things have happened to my family that we did not foresee and we have had to try and accept them.

But like all scars, mine is unique and has its own peculiar beauty, as do those spidery blemishes that seem to enhance the visage of that unforgettable Nordic heroine, Saga Norén from The Bridge. Her scars are like a question with no answer; they foreshadow a depth of experience, but they in no way detract.

Now that it has healed, my small scar sits in harmony alongside the other features on my face, none of which are perfect or conventional in any case. It belongs to me and it is permanent, like so many of the things that have happened to my family, to my daughter.

And yet it is not a cross to bear, just a sign that at times I have known temporary pain and suffered wounds that felt so raw in the beginning that I thought they would never heal.

As sure as the mark on my face that no-one can really see but me, I know that new injuries will also settle and be reconciled with the rest of my life and recede in their importance.

They will become a natural part of the everyday, these scars worn with secret pride in the overcoming and acceptance of a fate very much out of my hands.


3 thoughts on “A scar is born

  1. This story reminds me of when l had rhinoplasty because a large bump in my nose. The day l was able to take my plastic protector off and go to bed without it, was the day my 18 mth old son got out of his bed and tried to jump into mine, and head butted me right on my nose whilst l was just waking. It felt as though l had just gone through the op all over again.

  2. Thank you for writing this beautiful story…several years ago i had to under go a couple of surgeries to repair my neck, it was broken in a car accident..i was left with scars from the accident as well ad the surgeries, and my lovely porcelain skin was the only thing i was ever vain about..your story really help put a light on what is really important..our scars are remiders of our life..we should wear them like medals of honor

    • Thanks for this wonderful comment, Amy, it means a lot. Coming from someone who has been through as much as you have, I appreciate it very much. I’ve found it useful to make fun of my own vanity in light of the emotional scars I now carry, and to cherish them even if they remind me about more painful times. You made my day x

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