Driving back from a wonderful interior design job at Lake Martin, AL, this afternoon, an incident popped into my head for some reason.... one of those, 'Why am I thinking about this now?' sort of things. Anyway, it did, and I have thought about for the last few hours.
I am so glad I was only five or so when this happened.
When I was nine months old I had an operation that left a hideous scar across my back. It wasn't something that really affected me one way or the other until I was 5. One afternoon playing outside without our shirts on a neighborhood bully told me it was so ugly and that I looked liked Frankenstein to him.
I remember going home, getting a chair, standing on it in the bathroom so that I could use a hand mirror and see it. Well, one thing the bully was right. It really wasn't pretty.
From that day on, I always wore a t-shirt outside. It really bothered me, and the bully always said something to the effect of "Well look who's coming -- Frankenstein." He would keep at it until I would cry. But again, I am glad I was only 5 or so when this happened.
We were living in Dothan, AL, then, and I was invited to something with kindergarten classmates -- a pool party. I dreaded it because I knew I would be swimming with my t-shirt on.
Some of the details are sketchy here, but I remember Mom taking me to a quiet place to talk about something... the pool where we were going, there would be a man there who had been in a very bad accident. He was okay now, but that he might look very different to me, because he had been hurt in a fire.
She explained that he was better, but that since he would look unusual to me she wanted me to understand ahead of time what I might be seeing.
The next day we went to this pool party and I was wearing my bathing suit, t-shirt and flip-flops. And the man was there. Charles Woods. If you don't know who he is, you should. Google him....he is the one that was serving our country... and the plane he was in exploded in fire upon landing. There is a book... The Sun Rose Late; The Incredible Story of Charles Woods.... but I didn't know all of that then.
Again, I am glad I was only 5. I walked over and looked at him for a minute then he said hello...and in my incredible 5-year-old naiveté I told him that I had a scar, too. And then I asked him if it made him cry if people made fun of him because of his scars.
I hope this quote is word for word...if not it's fairly close.
"A scar is nothing to cry about. A scar just means you won!"
I really don't remember much else about it all except that I swam without my t-shirt, but I do remember the next time the bully started the Frankenstein stuff I shouted at him he was too stupid to understand that I had won. I am sure it made no sense to him, and like most bullies do when they are confronted, he shut up and never really bothered me much anymore.
I am so glad I wasn't 8, 7, or even 6, because by then I would have understood that by asking the question that it might have hurt his feelings. I am glad I was 5.
That brief moment is the only time I remember being around him... but he put some healing on a scar that I haven't forgotten... obviously so, 52 years later... and he probably never knew that he taught me a little bit about how to handle a bully and to be thankful for a few scars that I have gotten down the road... and that whether the scar is on the inside or the outside, it just means you've won.