I was six years old when I made my first scar. I say “made” because I find that they’re usually the result of a poor, careless decision you make in a moment’s notice and immediately regret. I was so excited to get to school that day that I flew right out of my mother’s beat up 1984 Toyota Camry and into the pavement. Two band-aids and a cotton swab of hydrogen peroxide later and I was as good as new… almost. For in that moment life had branded me with something I would later come to understand as scar tissue, which would forever leave my right knee looking different from the left.
Much like tattoos, scars are permanent. Only we don’t get to choose what’s now eternally etched into our skin. I’m not sure what made me so excited for school that day, especially because my High School years will tell you that I was anything but excited to show up to anywhere that happened to have the word ‘school’ in its name. But I was almost glad for it— I’ve always been a fan of tattoos, just a little too scared to get one. And now I had a nature-made mark that would supposedly signify this “important experience” that I’d had in my life; a conversation piece if you will. And I loved that about my scars… until I didn’t.
Much more interesting than a birthmark, a scar is supposed to be some sort of “cool” physical representation of an emotional change or time in your life. At least that’s what the movies and people who are into body modification will tell you. But I think it’s easily forgotten that scars are, a lot of the time, the result of something both physically and emotionally painful. A year after my little knee fiasco, my dad decided he was no longer interested in living in the United States where he worked, as an immigrant, installing satellite dishes somewhere (I won’t pretend to know what he did) and left us. I remember running to the front door as he was getting into the black service-car that was taking him to the airport, and clipping the knuckle of the middle-finger on my right hand on the side of our radiator. I didn’t care at the time, but this insignificant little wound would mean I was going to have to re-live this whenever someone decided my old injury was a promising conversation-starter over and over for pretty much the rest of my life.
I used to hate when people would ask about the scar on my hand so much that after a while I started lying about it. I can remember telling people that I’d punched a wall on accident, or that it was a “battle-wound” from a time when my sister and I weren’t getting along just so that I wouldn’t have to explain my somewhat embarrassing, very personal experience to anyone. I’d quickly mumble something to the effect of, “oh, it’s nothing” and hope that whoever was asking would either get the hint or just accept my little white lie and move on. After a while though, the nervousness that came with that became overbearing and something I didn’t want to deal with anymore. That, and I had found Harry Potter which helped in making me re-consider the thought that my scar could mean something more than a sad memory in my life.
I can’t imagine having a scar like Harry’s on my forehead, nonetheless having it be the thing defined me. I say that not because Harry let it but because it appears that anyone who ever meets Harry for the first time seems to be nothing short of infatuated with that little piece of scar tissue. During these moments, which are supposed to be exciting and new, we see just how saddened Harry becomes as he repeatedly re-lives the pain of his parents’ death. I can only wonder if Harry had ever just wished people would stop talking about it, like it was some sort of trophy or mark of survival that he was expected to brandish and flaunt around. Harry was never able to lie about the story behind his scar and for that I commend him, because that’s hard. For him, and for others in our muggle world like him, having an easily seen scar is like having to wear that awful experience forever, right on your body, for everyone to look at and question if they so desire.
But there’s beauty in all of this too (I promise!). Harry’s scar is a product of “the almighty killing curse”, Avada Kedavra. And Harry’s scar, just like mine, is a reminder that there are forces much more powerful than death and loss. It is a reminder that although we have been hurt deeply, we heal. And once we do, we are left changed and sometimes even better off than we were before. And, much like Harry’s scar, mine had unintentionally created a “connection” (or in my case, a strong reminder) between myself and someone with whom I had no desire to be associated with in the form of a memory. But it went on to give me so much more than that; it gave me the motivation to work hard and make something of myself in a time when very little was expected of me. With Harry’s scar came the gift of Parseltongue, cunning, and a certain disregard for the rules (which is something I think we both share from time to time) and I don’t think either of us have anything to be ashamed of.
I think J.K. Rowling positioned a tiny little lightning-shaped scar on her protagonist’s forehead to teach people about a few different things, one of them being the idea that we are impactful. The choices we make can have everlasting and severe consequences to them. Hugely ridiculed for the implication that breaking the rules will bear no consequence (see any of Harry’s mutinous acts of defiance against school rules), I think Rowling uses the scar perfectly to show us just the opposite. Someone other than Harry made a choice that has eternally impacted his life; it is this small detail that has not only helped me to see the beauty in my own scar, but has helped me realize that my once-painful wound means to me what I want it to. I’m not sure we’ll ever really know exactly what Harry thought or felt about his scar, or what it was like to have that be the center of most people’s attention. As for me, though, I can honestly say that I’ve grown to love my scar tissue.