the skin of life

Lately I’ve been thinking about scars. I have my share of them, both internal and external, literal and figurative. Some I’ve had since childhood. Such as: that half-inch scar on my chin from the time I fell in front of a roaring fire and said hello to the living-room floor.

Then there’s the faint gray spot on a vein in the palm of my left hand, the imprint of a pencil that I dropped in fourth grade and then, as I reached down to get it, hit the floor eraser-first at a precise 90-degree angle and bounced straight up and stabbed me. (And I ask you, what are the chances?) The school nurse at Washington Primary informed me that, first of all, I was not going to die of acute lead poisoning, as pencils were made out of graphite, thank God, and second, I would bear the scar of this traumatic episode throughout my life. Of course she did not in fact use the phrase “traumatic episode,” but the sight of that school-bus-yellow Number 2 dangling from my innocent appendage stuck with me for perpetuity, along with the scar.

Of the marks and defects acquired since adulthood, my favorites trace back to my eight years playing soccer and my three rounds of pregnancy and childbirth, as I’ve derived too much joy from both; I’ll never rue the day I earned those scars.

Another flaw I love is the thin white slice on the back of my right hand, below and between the knuckles of my pinky and ring finger. That one I got in the summer of 1991, just before my wedding to Chris, on the day I lugged all my worldly crap out of my triple-decker apartment in Somerville, Mass., and packed it into a U-Haul for the move to Albany.

While woman-handling a file cabinet into submission, a drawer slipped out and gashed my hand. It was deep. The blood spilled out with fulsome gore. But because I was young and cheap and also stupid; because I had paid the one-way rate; because I had to get the damn truck back to damn Boston that same damn night, dammit; and because the clock was already ticking, and I was already late, and did I mention that I was young and cheap and also stupid, I trundled off into the morning and onto the Pike with a plentifully bleeding hand. I grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol from my load of worldly crap and spent the trip to Albany dousing it while driving. Don’t ask me how I managed to drive and pour without the acquisition of a third hand. I don’t remember. I just remember pulling up to Chris’s apartment at the intersection of Park and Delaware in shorts soaked with blood and alcohol.

You can see why I love this scar: It marks the beginning of my life with my late husband. I can’t regard it without remembering that day, that man, that life; I look at the closed wound, and the skin that formed around it, and recall our 20 years together.

My biggest scars show no outward trace. But in the the two and a half years since my kids and I absorbed the sudden blow of losing Chris, a rough but healing dermis has formed around that wound, as well. A whole lot of life has occurred between then and now. The grief is still there. We can put our fingers on it, feel the bone beneath it, see the pucker of skin around its glossy ridge. It never fades, not completely — and it can hurt like hell during a flare-up. But our lives have grown around it. And thank God, they just keep growing.

it’s only wafer thin

no mints for me.

no mints for me.

Some moments, on some days, what I find most baffling in life is exactly what I love about Monty Python: It’s all so surreal, all┬áso reductio ad absurdum, with all its stuff and nonsense taken to the wildest logical extremes.

I often think of that restaurant sketch in “Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life” — when the humongous Mr. Creosote, having gorged and puked through several courses, is approached by a waiter, aka John Cleese, bearing an after-dinner mint. Mr. Creosote grumbles “no.” The waiter insists: “Eet’s only wahffer-theen.”

The scene ends with Mr. Creosote, aka Terry Jones in an inflating fat suit, exploding his voluminous undigested stomach contents around the restaurant while the waiter bolts for cover.

This is life, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I’m always one wahffer-theen stressor away from egesta-heaving overcapacity and detonation. Time gets eaten up by work, by my children’s needs, by the scratching and pecking and blogging I do in my “off” hours (ummm…), by calls to the cable guy, by trips to doctor, by making dinner and tidying up (and by “tidying up” I mean “flinging dirty dishes into the sink from across the room, to hell with it if they break”), by paying bills and juggling whatever other sharp objects and obligations rain down upon me in a frenzied whirlwind.

Like, for instance. Anytime any offspring of mine brings home a form for me to fill out and/or sign and/or append with lengthy vaccination records, I know that three things will happen. One, I will panic and say, sometimes inwardly, sometimes aloud, OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP, followed by I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW, I’M FIXING THE @#!$%!! DOORKNOBS, followed by STICK IT OVER THERE ON THE TABLE, NEXT TO THE HORSE (and by “horse” I mean “cross-legged equine salt-and-pepper holder purchased at the Schaghticoke Fair”). Two, I will then postpone the filling-out and signing and vaccination-appending of this form until the last stupid minute, i.e., right when we’re all trying to get out the door in the morning. And three, I will spill coffee on it.

But, you know. It goes. The forms find their way to school. I find time to gas with friends, squawk on the violin or watch old episodes of “X-Files” with my son. (We loved that one about the self-elongating mutant who crawls through air ducts and eviscerates people!)

So the whirlwind carries me and all of us day to night to day, and then another night and another day, and somehow, employing some everyday magic of motherly prestidigitation, I and my offpsring make it through the week without exploding. And if anything else falls onto my plate, it’s only wafer thin.