Tuesday, January 28, 2014

 “There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature.  A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.”  - Harry Crews, novelist and playwright 

He walked into my junior high class that first day, and all I could see was a keloid scar running from the top of one ear right across his whole head to the top of the other ear! 
I knew exactly what his scar was…  In kindergarten when I was running back to my Mom’s car, I’d tripped over the root of a tree and fallen in between the curb and the car.  When I got up, and my Mom saw my head appear at the car window, her only daughter had no nose, anymore… just a bloody split with half a nose laying on either side!  I’d cut it in two on a sharp piece of car metal. 

Mom raced me to the hospital, and the doctor-on-call happened to be a plastic surgeon, luckily for me.  Dr. Reed sewed me up with black thread, all 150 stitches-worth, and then told my Mom to have me back at the hospital in EXACTLY 12 hours so he could remove the first stitch!  Otherwise, he said, I would have a “keloid scar” for the rest of my life… a raised, disfiguring scar from the top of my nose to the bottom of my nostrils.  Mom drove me to the hospital every 12 hours from Culver City to Santa Monica and back until the doctor said it was OK to wait longer between visits.  When I was older, I’d always meant to find Dr. Reed and tell him “thank you” for his expertise… even though he’d refused to sew me up with the pink thread like I’d asked of him there at the hospital before he started his tailoring job…

This “keloid” boy also had lots of blonde hair that was waxed with gel and spiked all over his head.  The hair spikes were gunked together so that his keloid was the star of his head.  Why?  I dunno…

I liked him, but, then I liked all of “my kids.”  Towards the end of that school year, he came to me after school with his hair-spikes sticking up all around that massive scar tissue, and he looked worried. 

“Mrs. Waldron, I gotta leave school!”

“You have to leave?  Oh, darn!  Why?  Are you moving?

“Naw, the school found out that we don’t live in the right attendance area,” he said.  “I gotta go to the junior high near my house.  But, Mrs. Waldron…  I CAN’T go there!  These four guys that live there told me that if I ever came back to that school, they would beat the crap out of me!  I can’t go there…”

“Well, what‘s the problem you have with them?  Can’t you talk it out and settle it with them?” What I said I knew was ridiculous!  Our school was placed right in the midst of three gangs, and where he was going there was another one. 

He just looked at me, and there really was fear in his eyes.  We both knew I was an idiot!

Honesty is always best, but it is also, sometimes, not a bit of help. “I have no idea what to tell you…  I can’t think of anything that would help you out of this mess…” 

Now, I know about the separation of church and state, and the difference between public and parochial schools.  I know all that.  But this kid had a solid chance of ending up in the hospital, for sure!  And anyway, I only knew of one way to help, the way that I get help…

“I’d like to pray for you, because God is the only One Who can help you now…  What do you say?”

He said, “Yeah… anything!”

I told him that meant that he and I would have to go to the front office, and he’d sit in there with me, and I’d pray for him.

Why, you ask?  Because being in my room alone with him, praying, even though my door was wide open, could possibly cost me my job… maybe not, but I wouldn’t take the chance.  A teacher who I’d taught with had a teacher/husband who’d not only lost his job, but was handcuffed in their front yard by the police and taken to jail for being in a room with a female student who lied about him making advances!  It was in the paper for many months here.  The upshot was that the student admitted lying about the whole thing because she was angry about a bad report card grade he’d given her, and he was completely exonerated.  BUT, he never taught school again.  He’d won major awards for his teaching, but that broke him, his wife told me.  I believed her.  So I’d do my praying in the complete open, and suffer the consequences, whatever they might be.

Into the front office we went.  Four chairs for visitors stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows between the two entrance doors, and that’s where we sat down.  I bowed my head, and he bowed his shivering, scarred head, and I prayed out loud that the Lord would protect him at this new school.  I looked up, and the secretary smiled over at me. Afterwards, he got on his bike and I watched him ride away home.

He came back about a week later, riding his bike right to the open door of my classroom after school was over for the day.  He dropped the bike on the cement and ran in.  “Mrs. Waldron!  They didn’t beat me up!  They didn’t even hit me!  They were all there at the gate of the school when I got there, but they talked to me!  They didn’t hit me or nothing!”  (You can see right there what a great ENGLISH teacher I was.  I did resist the temptation to correct his grammar, though!)

“Really?  Gee, I’m so glad for you!”  And I WAS!  I’d been worrying every day that week, wondering what had happened.  Nice ending of the story, right…  NO, it’s NOT the end…

He came back to see me in the middle of the next year.  He’d entered high school, and someone had talked him into taking a drama class.  Well, he LOVED it!  He had a small part in a play and was in the middle of rehearsals.  He was convinced he was going to become an actor someday!

So what does that have to do with your story, Terry…  What did he do ~ grow up to receive the Academy Award?????  Nope… at least not that I know of…  But his scar was gone!  That horrible, huge keloid was still there, but he had hair!  He’d grown out his beautiful naturally-blonde hair, and he’d combed it, and he’d weaned it away from hair-gel-and–spikes.  He was a happy kid with a goal worth working for.  And that scar had taken its rightful place…  way, way, away in the backseat of his life!

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