Yes, I’m late again. And boy has it been busy here in Tucson. The Modeens had been working on a cool gig last Saturday at the Tucson Museum of Art to help open their awesome Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit (amazing photos of rock and rollers from 1955 til now). We had to learn a bunch of new tunes from The Ramones, Blondie, Rolling Stones and I’m not too proud to say it was HARD! But we had a blast and now can get back to a more normal routine. Oh, by the way, my mother had some photos from my singing telegram era – so check me out in the green dress and 80’s hair if you wanna. Okay, enough yakkin, time for more stories!
I’ve always been fascinated by scars. Every one has a story behind it, some more interesting or harrowing than others. I have a few scars myself – tattoos etched from various collisions I’ve had with the world around me. But not of the violent variety like the white jagged scar of a gangster, or the heroic kinds, like the indentations of schrapnel wounds sported by a war veteran. Naw, they’re more humbling reminders of my amazing feats of clumsiness more than anything. But they still all had their little lessons to impart.
Scar Number 1
There’s the first scar I remember, the one barely visible above my upper lip, slightly slashing the little hollow between the two peaks. This first memory of breaking skin occured when I was around 5 years old, going to Happy Acres pre-school. This unique childcare option was more of a campground nestled among the tall Florida pines, centered around a small lake where we’d muddle through the slippery, squishy sheets of frog eggs.
Ah, there I am at four-and-a-half during the horse segment of our curricula! Happy Acres was a child’s paradise of outdoor activity combined with fun indoor finger-painting and game-playing. It was where I learned to read and where I learned a painful lesson in not pursuing boys. Well, I was five years old – I wasn’t really pursuing a boy to seduce him from his studies of tadpoles and horses. But I had gotten it into my head one day to try to kiss this one particular boy in class. I don’t even remember his name or what he looked like. I think it was a game that some of the other girls had started – chasing boys by threatening to kiss them. We didn’t actually want to kiss them, but they really didn’t want to be kissed and it was hysterical to see them run in horror at our approaching lips.
So one day, I found myself chasing some boy who was running away from my amorous threats. We are laughing and had started running round and round one of those little merry-go-round contraptions – circles of iron with little hobby horses that someone would push to make it go around. I had tried everything – faking that I was going one way, then changing direction to try to catch him on the other side. But he always reacted just in time to stay out of my clutches. Finally I tired of these shenanigans and had my first realization that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line: instead of going around the merry-go-around, I could go across it and catch him faster! Only my little 5 year old brain hadn’t quite thought this through. I lunged straight ahead – did I think I’d fly across? – and caught the first iron bar right across my middle, flipping forward and landing with my face squashed onto the asphalt below.
Needless to say, lots of mayhem ensued. My lip hurt and bled and all the grownups came to examine and coo over me. Yep, I needed stitches. I don’t remember much of the stitches going in – except they formed what looked like the number 4 above my lip. But I sure as hell remember when they were taken out. The nurse had to hold me down forcibly while they slowly teased out each bit of string from my flesh. It hurt more than anything else I’d experienced in my so short life and I remember thrashing with all my might against those strong arms. But out they came and I was able to move on with a better appreciation for the impact solid objects can make when we try to go through them. Which is a good lesson to learn in this world.
Scar Number 2
Looking down at my left kneecap, I still see the faint checkerboard patterned scar left from a failed attempt to cross the street when I was around 12 (maybe as old as 14?) It was a lovely sunny day and I had been trying to go outside more (alas, it was the skinny 80s and I was not so skinny.) I put on my track suit shorts, some Adidas sneakers and a determined attitude. Just as I was heading out the door, my mother suddenly called out from the living room: “Cristy, where are you going?” At this uncharacteristic question from my mother, I bristled slightly, “Nowhere, just taking a walk.”
“Please don’t run, mi amor!” she begged.
“Uh, okay.” and out the door I went. “I mean it! Don’t run.” called out my mother again.
What in the world did she think I was, a little baby?? I was a big girl, I could run if I wanted to! The thing was, I never ran. I had never shown any inclination to even think about running. So why did she say that? But on that particular day, I had been considering starting running (again: skinny, fitness-obssessed 80’s) and I thought I might give it a try one day – maybe even today.
So I went outside and wandered around the small suburban neighborhood of Beacon Hills under vast magnolia and oak trees all dripping with spanish moss. I’d been gone a while and was on my way home – in fact just across the street. Then, despite my mother’s warning, I thought “Oh, I’ll just jog across the street – get a feel for this running thing everyone’s talking about”. So I looked both ways and started to jog across the wide street when – BAM!
I had tripped on nothing (not for the first or last time) and was suddenly face down on the asphalt (again). Though I hadn’t hit my face, now my knee was killing me, a scarlet rose quickly blossoming on my kneecap. Dazed and brushing off gravel, I vaguely noticed and thanked God that no cars were coming and gingerly got myself up and limped home.
“Que pasa??” cried my mother. “Ay, did you run?” she asked me sternly. I weakly nodded yes and then she took care of me like the awesome Mami she is – soothing me with her mix of English and Spanish and cleaning and dressing my square patch of red.
Afterwards, I asked her why she’d told me not to run in the first place. “I don’t know, I just suddenly felt the urge to warn you. I just knew something would happen.”
This was not the first or last time my mother spouted out something that would happen. It was usually something as innocuous as knowing an unexpected phone call was coming from a distant relative and then hearing the phone ring, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes my mother gets flashes of things before they happen. Usually nothing to change your plans over – but if my mother ever calls me when I’m about to board an airplane and tells me not to get on – you better believe I ain’t getting on that sucker. So my lesson learned here was (and I’m sure Mami would agree): listen to your mother when she has one of her psychic flashes!
Scar Number 3
I can still run my finger over what’s left of the scar above my left eye. It’s not very noticeable anymore – a slight valley of skin that mingles with the dark hairs of my eyebrow. It’s my battle scar – a little less embarrassing than the others – gotten in action during my first professional theater stint as a screaming teenager in Alhambra Dinner Theater’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie”. It was my early days of theater – I was 19 and even though I didn’t know much about musicals, I was very excited to get a decent paycheck singing and dancing on stage in front of a bunch of sweet, dazed-looking blue hairs still munching through their gelatinous Seafood Newburg.
There was a rumor that the production was cursed (curses run amock throughout theatrical history spawning things like the well known phrase “break a leg” instead of wishing an actor “good luck” and the bizarre gyrations any self respecting actor has to perform if anyone mentions the word “Macbeth”). So okay, a few things had gone wrong with the production, including the inadvertent decking of Conrad Birdie by the skinny Hugo during dress rehearsal. In the story, high school student Hugo is jealous of rock star Conrad Birdie’s hold on his girl’s affections. So he belts him a good one and Kim comes running back into his arms. But this time, the actor playing Hugo accidentally hit the actor playing Conrad right square in the eye. He hit the floor screaming and moaning – there was a little blood and he was rushed to the hospital. He turned out okay – but the handsome actor would now open the show with a raging black eye for the first week of the show.
Then a few weeks later, the night my parents had come to see the show, it was my turn. There’s a scene when Conrad Birdie comes to this small town and all the teenagers go absolutely crazy in a big song and dance number. The splashy end involved us crawling on our hands and knees in our raging teenage lust, reaching our jazz hands out to the audience and then faux-collapsing on the stage floor. Lights go to black and then I rush up the aisle to grab some “We Love Conrad Birdie” signs with some other screaming teenage girls for the next scene.
But that particular night, my line had moved to the left for some unknown reason which positioned me right by some steps leading off the stage. When I did my faux collapse – my head went BOOM right on the corner of the top step. When the lights went down, I saw some stars and was vaguely aware of wetness on my forehead. I ran up the aisle to the other girls whose eyes went wide as saucers when they saw my face. The stage manager happened to be right there and told the other girls to go on with the scene while he ushered me backstage.
As I passed one of the dressing rooms and glanced in the mirror, I saw half of my face blanketed in a beautiful shade of scarlet. Through the pain and the blood, though, I remained perfectly quiet. It was showtime and even though we were backstage, it was a small theater and there was a chance the audience would have heard. My parents were fetched from the audience and took me to the hospital where I got (another) bunch of stitches. I looked like Lady Frankenstein but made it back to the theater before curtain call.
I thought I’d get a lot of teasing – but turns out the poor actor-playing-Conrad got the worst ribbing for having bawled “like a girl” when an actual girl hadn’t made any fuss. I wasn’t crazy about having so many stitches right on my face like that, but I also was a bit proud of them. I liked the idea of changing people’s notion of what a girl does in any particular situation. I’d grown up on all these TV sitcoms or old horror movies where the girl is just freakin’ useless in any situation that didn’t involve cooking or cleaning. Damsels in distress that faint at any disturbance and need a big strong man to save them. Ick! It was the first time, I felt kinda tough. And my fellow cast members called me a “trooper” – the highest praise known in the theater world! So the moral of this story? I think “girls can be tough, too” suffices, with a bit of “the show must go on”!
And now, as we like to do in the blogging world, I’m gonna turn it over to you: got any juicy, educational or humiliating stories from your scar or scars you’d like to share with the rest of the interwebs? Perfect is boring and scars are cool, so let us know!