Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Swimming in the Deep End Again

I have a scar. Well, I have quite a few, actually, but this particular scar is attached to a panoply of memories. I seem to be lingering in Little Compton at the moment(My Aunt S has written me about my posts, and she refers to it as "LC", and I may start doing the same since it's a handful to type). I lived there, or nearby, for perhaps the first eight years of my life, then moved to Florida, then back to New England, dividing my time between LC and New Hampshire before finally moving down here to Georgia, where I have hunkered down to bide my time until I take over the world, win the lottery, figure out what I want to be when I grow up live. I have been in Georgia for more than half of my life, but it seems to be what came before that has marked me the deepest (in more ways than one).

So, about this scar. It's a small one, almost invisible after all this time. I believe I was all of seven when I got it. I'm a bit muddled about the time, but I hope I may be forgiven - it was a very long time ago, and the scar was caused by a somewhat traumatic event.

I was at my grandparents' house at the time. We often spent time there, sometimes living there between homes when mum was still sorting herself out. Give her a break - they had a fantastic, huge, beautiful house that could easily hold us without ever noticing we were there, and she was trying to raise two kids by herself. My grandfather had a boat. He always had a boat - once, when I was in my teens, he even bought a speed boat and named her for me, a signal honor in our family. It was his way of telling me he was proud of me and he loved me, and definitely not a commentary on the size of my ass. Poor Papa, he tried to teach me to water ski with that boat, but the silly skis kept falling off my feet! It had nothing to do with my weak arms and general lack of grace and athletic ability. Nope. It was the skis. Back to the scar.

On the day in question, my mum was out on the boat with Papa, Mimi, and some friends of the family - adults only, so all of us kids stayed behind. I was disappointed because I loved going out on the boat, at that time a Chris Craft somethingorother Cruiser thing. Hey, I was a kid, give me a break. Much as I loved the boat, to me it was just a boat - something to motor out into deep water on, jump off of and clamber back onto, and watch the occasional Tall Ships parade (do boats parade??) and Blue Angels or Thunderbirds show from. And oh, the picnics we had, and the swims, and the wind and sun and air and motion. Ahh. When I win that dadblasted lottery, I am getting a sail boat. With someone to drive it. Yes, I know you don't drive a boat, you skipper it, but I don't care. I shall have a skipper and the boating equivalent of a handsome cabana boy. Yep. Sorry, gone are my days of sailing out along on a little Sunfish without a worry...at least, for now. Where was I?

Oh, right. So on this particular day it was my older brother C, myself, and the B's son A (All these letters are confusing, I know, but I simply won't refer to people by name unless they give permission first). It was a lovely day, and we were playing outside the house. Inside were L, the housekeeper who was so much more, and I think also M (housekeeper and cook), but I only remember L. She was houkeepering away in that humongous house, and the three of us kids were outside. C and A were playing off in one part of the yard, and I was wandering aimlessly about talking to myself, or singing to myself, or staring at things, or whatever it was I did those days. Probably mumbling or singing, those seemed to be my favorite pastimes when I wasn't buried in a book, attempting to become entirely a fish, sucking at tennis, or trying very hard not to fall off a horse. As I was wandering about the yard, I passed close to a clump of trees where C and A were playing...something. Honestly, I never did really know what they were playing - they were eight and probably at something violent or destructive.

Out from the center of the clump of trees came a dire warning - I should go away and leave the boys alone or something would happen. Oh, yes, terrifying! This clump of trees was just past one end of the laundry lines, and I believe some mention of a ghost was made - likely a ghost made up of little boy and linens (which would make L cross, but really, do kids care about how difficult it is to do laundry??) I kept up my meandering, largely ignoring the boyish protests of my slight female presence. I don't recall actually wanting anything to do with them, their "fort" just happened to be along my way. Suddenly, out from the trees burst A, bearing a spear!!

No, not really a spear. It was one of those old-fashioned tomato stakes, those square wooden poles that went into the ground and you tied your tomato plant to it to keep the thing upright, because tomato cages hadn't been invented yet or weren't widely used, or perhaps Mimi thought they were plebeian. I have no idea. I know she gardened for a while, but stopped for some reason.

Sidebar: I used to have a recurring dream about falling into a post-hole dug for a fence going around the miles-long garden. In the dream I would fall into soft, dark earth, could smell the loamy richness of it, could see the sky above as a little round button of blue. A post would come down on top of me, but I never worried much about that - somehow I knew I'd be missed before they shoveled too much earth back into the hole. How odd, the things children dream.

Back to the whole reason I started this post. Out popped A with a spear!! He arghed at me and began to chase me about the vast lawn. In those days, there was a half-circle drive surrounding the house and separating it from the bulk of the lawn. The drive was lined on the side away from the house with very tall, very old fir trees of some variety. They shielded the house from us, and vice versa, so no one saw A chasing me. I do not remember if C was also giving chase, but I think it likely. A was the one armed, though, and so he was the one I ran from. I thought he was playing, teasing me, so I didn't run very hard, and ended up cornered against one of the grand trees lining the drive. There, A menaced me, shaking the spear and generally being a little boy.

Imagine his surprise, and mine, when the thing slipped from his hand and smacked me right in the face with enough force to knock me back into the tree. Oops.

I believe he ran. I am sure C ran. I don't know what I did at first. I remember the "spear" hitting me, the sound of the thunk, something crunching...and then...

And then I was somehow on the other side of that tree (perhaps I teleported? Wouldn't that be something!) and stumbling across the driveway to the front door. I had a hand pressed to my face and couldn't see very well because I may have been crying. I hope that lapse in dignity may be forgiven, considering the circumstances. Up the lovely old stone steps to the slate patio, then up the wooden steps to the house, trying not to drip on anything - at the ripe old age of six or seven, I knew that blood stains and Mimi would be very angry if I stained anything.

Somehow, the screen door opened, and the front door, and then I was in the entry room. Then the front hall. If you every knew me in when I lived there, you are walking with me, I'm sure, into that fine old Georgian Revival house. Left into the sitting room and then through the dining room, the pantry (how I wish I had a pantry like that, now, a whole room to keep dishes and food in, with a sink and a WC and all that cupboard and counter space!) and finally into the kitchen, where I found L at the butcher's block.

Another sidebar: I have that butcher's block table now, and it's my house altar. I keep Papa's old Zippo lighter in is, among other things, and it's one of the things I would try to get out if my house was burning down around me...right after the humans and the cats and Bob the Wonder Computer.

L was, I think reading or something, because she didn't know what was wrong at first. When she looked up, I imagine she saw a bleeding, crying little girl who was struggling not to bleed on anything that made up the actual house, which left my clothing, hands, and the possibility of levitating the blood until an appropriate receptacle could be found. Somehow I managed not to bleed on anything until I got to the kitchen, if you can believe that!

At some point, my brother made it onto the scene, because after a moment of horrified observation, L ordered him to fetch a towel from the linen closet one floor up. A hand towel or a wash cloth, I think. He brought one and I refused it because it was one of the good ones, and didn't he know Mimi would be mad?? Really, priorities, C, priorities! Off he ran, up the back stairs to fetch a less "nice" towel, which L then used to try and wipe me down (hoping, I am sure, that it was simply a really vicious mosquito bite or something) and then wetting it and filling it with ice.

She called an ambulance when she noted the extent of the injury, and I don't know if I told her then or later what had actually happened.

I got to ride up front in the ambulance, and all I remember about the ride was they were very nice men and you can't see very well through an ice-filled washcloth. I believe I may have asked if I could make the lights and siren go.

At the hospital or medical center or wherever they took me, L told me not to let the doctor touch me. Much later in life, I found out it was because he was an intern who'd been there who knows how many hours, and she didn't want him stitching me up and making a huge scar. She was concerned for my future, and possibly also that Mimi would skin her alive for letting this happen in the first place (as if it was her fault!!) and then for letting some quack make me into the Bride of Frankenstein. AT the time, all I knew was I was on a hard surface staring into a bright light with a gently throbbing face and the nagging feeling that I'd done something wrong and was going to be in trouble. And when the doctor wanted to stitch me up, I told him he wasn't allowed because L said so, until she informed me that this doctor could.

I went cross-eyed trying to watch him work. He wanted me to close my eyes, but I wanted to see what he was doing. By the way, I am still that way - I would have remained awake for the removal of the amazing exploding appendix surgery, but the nice surgeon didn't really like the idea of a pregnant woman staring at him while he worked around her womb. Silly fellow.

I had seven stitches that day, making a jagged but really hardly noticeable scar on the bridge of my nose. I distinctly recall the doctor remarking on my incredib;e luck, that ducking or flinching even the slightest bit would have left me with one eye and the nickname of "Winky" for the rest of my days. OK, he didn't say the "Winky" bit, but it would have been funny if he did.

It never hurt. Not when the spear hit me, not when I was wandering dazed through the house, not when I was on that cold metal table and they were jabbing numbing needles into it and picking out splinters. Not after, either. This, too, has carried into my adult life. Things don't hurt me the way they ought, and I am grateful, because when I do notice pain, I find I disapprove of it entirely.

Things are a bit of a blur after that, until later when the adult boating party returned. Did L call them? Was it simply time? I don't know. There weren't cell phones, then, so if she called them it was through the marine radio or the Coast Guard or something. I think my mum knew right when it happened, in that mummish way they have. We have.

At any rate, I pled with A's mum and dad not to spank him - he'd had splinters in his hand from trying to hold onto the thing, and he felt awful, and I think I may have had a tiny little crush on him (he was, and is, a real cutie) as well as a healthy fear of spankings for anyone. I made them promise, and who can deny a crying, bloodied, stitched up, bruised little girl? They promised, and A never had a spanking over it, and many years later he'd forgotten entirely about it until I reminded him - and suddenly he knew why he felt ill a the sight of blood!

After the adults came home, they asked me what I wanted to help me feel better. I was no fool - even if I didn't feel wretched, I could work this! I asked if we could please, pretty please, go to the T&C (the Town and Country, a sort of LC road house/bar/eatery)(remember that place, LCers??) for steamers. Please? Oh, I loved their steamers! Of course we went. All of us, because nothing would do for me but that A and his family came too - I think his parents really wanted to take him home and lock him in the dungeon, but again, they couldn't deny me. Manipulative little wench, wasn't I?

At the T&C, I ate steamers by the millions, drank more Shirley Temples than I'd ever had in one sitting before, and danced with Papa. Yes, danced.

It was the one time in my life I felt good dancing. I felt like a princess. My big, handsome, beloved grandfather took me out onto the old wooden floor after feeding the jukebox, and let me dance with him - he put my feet on his and he did all the work, but I was dancing. I've never felt so loved, safe, or protected since. My brother and A were playing pinball and largely ignoring and being ignored by the party, but Papa was dancing me and that was just fine.

I have a scar. It's not too noticeable, but it's there for all to see, and it's not pretty either. But that scar? Oh, it has some beautiful things to remind me of.
Scars are just tattoos with better stories! But tattoos don't require a medicare bond. Still a scar can make you look mysterious, and they do have good stories!

1 comment:

Kit said...

BTW, I enjoyed this story!