One day early this summer my son decided to paint the rims on his car. He’s a bit of a car nut and is forever messing with the engine, the transmission or just something for aesthetics. So, he gets the paint, a sort of teal, covers part of the garage floor, and begins painting. Naturally he gets a decent amount of overspray on the uncovered parts and swaths of my garage floor are now a nice shade of teal.
At first, I was a little aggravated. After all, the house was built new 5 years ago and already my garage floor is a marked-up mess covered in oil, transmission fluid and now paint. But then an odd thing happened: I walked into the garage after work, saw the paint stains, and chuckled to myself. Suddenly I realized that 20 years from now, when he is married and moved out and long gone from my house, I will look at that stain and remember fondly when he was young and working on his car in my garage.
Scars are funny that way, both on your possessions and on your body, they can be aggravating and even painful when you get them—but they can also morph into a sort of time capsule. Scars can be a welcome walk down memory lane.
Inside my house, on the living room wall, you can find 4 semi-deep claw marks on the right side of the TV. When my dog was maybe 2 years old one of the kids had him chasing a laser pointer and when it got up on the wall the dog, being way more athletic than we could have imagined, pulled off an NBA style vertical leap running his paws down the wall at a height of almost 6 feet. Someday I might patch and repaint that wall. But I might not. Because I know that a decade from now when that dog is long buried, I might walk by those marks and smile, thinking of his younger puppy days and the kids that played with him.
Were you to look up at the ceiling by that same wall you would see some greenish brown streaks. Those are from me, being every year convinced I can fit a bigger Christmas tree in the house than I actually can and scraping the ceiling with the tree top when I place it in the stand. Every faint line just a trace of a Christmas past. Go to my parents house and look up and you will find awfully similar markings, they probably go back to some Christmases in the 90’s.
My left thumb is somewhat numb on the top side, from the knuckle up, and the nail is missing a chunk that will never brow back. This is from me deciding to help out a friend who had a tree fall in his yard and requested assistance removing it. We rented a wood splitter and I promptly caught my thumb in it. Luckily I was the one operating the button and immediately released it when I saw what was happening because wood splitters are not all that forgiving; they don’t stop the second you release the button because they’re hydraulic and had the releasing of the button come 1 second later who knows how many fingers I still have. Once I raised the splitter and extracted my hand I didn’t still know the extent of it, I had a heavy work glove on. Instead of asking for help, both because I was somewhat embarrassed by my stupidity and because I didn’t want to freak out his wife, I said nary a word about it. I simply walked to my car and jumped in with the intention of driving myself to the hospital. As I could feel the blood beginning to fill the glove, and as the pain finally made its way to my brain, I realized this wasn’t all that practical and drove instead to my parents house and had them drive me to the ER.
Later when my buddy finally caught up with me and I told him what happened he found several dozen ways to call me an idiot. We had some beers and a pretty good laugh about it that night. And now every once in a while my finger will brush up against that missing hunk of nail and I will be transported back to that summer afternoon and I will reminisce about the stupidity that caused the incident and the pride that forced me to hide it until that was no longer possible. I think of the two of us in that bar that night, me with a cast on my thumb and several stitches, drinking beer and laughing at how dumb I was. And I smile.
Like the scars on the house the scar on my thumb also tells a tale. A story that wasn’t a Hell of a lot of fun in the moment but that has evolved into a memory that makes me reminisce. It’s a part of my story, the story of my life, and it forever will be. If I could fly to the worlds premier plastic surgeon and have that little scar fixed, I wouldn’t. It’s mine; I earned it, I laugh about it, it’s who I am.
And so I am asking you, especially the younger among you, to remember this when you earn your next scar. Don’t be so quick to grab the spackle and a paint brush, stop and think about it for a few days. That little imperfection in your home or body, that’s probably really only noticeable to you or those looking for it, might one day whisper to you a story of your past. It might remind you of the best days of a long dead pet, it might remind you of your kids when they were still little and up to no good, it might remind you of you.
I have seen people that make quilts that tell the story of their lives. Woven together with old concert shirts, bits of a childs blanket, pieces of a sweater or wedding gown. But truly that quilt is all around you. Just look for it. A nick in the wall here, a marker stain on a door there (mine is shaped like a tiny pumpkin drawn by a child and it will NEVER be removed), or a stain on the garage floor. They all tell your story so don’t be so quick to paint over them.
Take it from someone who, in their younger days, fixed every minor imperfection because I didn’t realize just how fast time would fly and just how much I would like to look back someday. There are some scars I have fixed in my time that I would love to have back. Keep your flaws, let your house keep its flaws, and once in a while walk with them back in time. You wont regret it.