One of the side effects of growing older is that you have more and more scars, but fewer and fewer people who know about all of them.
Balanced against other weighty concerns, this may not be very important. It does matter, though. Our scars are evidence, not just of physical wounds, but of events we have lived through and maybe even learned from. The answer to the question, "How did you get that scar?" is a piece of our personal history.
In the following stories, the scars don't all belong to the same person, but all of them are real. The identities of their owners are being withheld in order to protect the unlucky, the careless, and the clumsy.
There's the white line on your chin that's a memento of the time you were helping a friend move and you fell out of the back of the Suburban and landed face-first on the concrete driveway. You remember grazing your cheek on the corner of the trailer as you fell, and you realize how lucky you were not to break your cheekbone, shatter your jaw, or lose a bunch of teeth.
The shallow divot on your wrist comes from the family bike ride when your daughter had a wreck in front of you and you fell over her. You landed on your face—getting an impressive shiner in spite of your helmet—scraped your wrist, and tore a ligament in your elbow. Until then, you thought seeing stars happened only in the comics.
The triangle on your knee is a souvenir of the time a steering cable broke on the boat and it veered abruptly to starboard—or was it port? Everything and everyone in it slid sideways. The cut on your leg was minor; what you remember most is that one of the kids almost went over the side.
The gouge in your knuckle came from nearly cutting off your finger during your college summer job. It was a good incentive to finish your education and learn how to find oil instead of drilling for it.
The mark across your thigh is a reminder that it's a good idea to stop the chain saw after it goes through the log and before it reaches your leg.
The line on your ankle marks the place where the orthopedic surgeon put in a screw—probably the most expensive hardware item you'll ever buy. That was the time you learned that it isn't a good idea to jump on the trampoline with your sandals on.
Scars are more than just marks on our bodies. They can be mementos of poor decisions, bad luck, or narrow escapes. They can serve as receipts, showing the tuition we've paid for educational experiences. They are part of our personal history and sometimes our family history as well. They may even remind us we were lucky to survive to talk about them.
We're lucky, too, if we have plenty of people around who know and care about our stories, including our scars. After all, some of our most interesting scars are in places we can't show to just anybody.