“The most beautiful people I have ever met are the ones who always see life in full color. They are the ones who have been through hell and back and still stop to savor the parts of life that many seldom pay attention to. They will always use their past experiences as a guiding light to bring forth a more authentic way of life. These are the people I admire most because no matter how much they have suffered, they will always find a reason to make the best of this imperfect world.” Karen A. Baquiran
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on everyone, but perhaps most dramatically upon young families who were just beginning the road to their dreams last year when the pandemic began to spread, only to find even the simplest and familiar elements of life evaporate like steam from a tea kettle. Existence itself has taken a new texture and format causing a new kind of pressure and resulting in a type of stress that few even today can fully understand or appreciate.
Take for example the family in a small suburb outside of Miami, Florida. They had just purchased their first house, modest, quaint, and perfect for their budding little family of two boys, ages six and eight. Last summer, he was laid off from his electrician job and with schools shutting down, money and patience became understandably tight. His young wife was always the optimistic one of the couple and her deep belief that all would be well and all would somehow work out never tired. Perhaps it had to do with her upbringing and how she knew how to push through all kinds of adversity. They had both found part time work so as to balance the family budget and arranged their schedules so that at least one of them could be at home with the boys and help with online learning and remote classes until it was deemed safe and appropriate to return to the classroom.
That first summer was difficult as it was for so many families, not just around the country but around the world. Life had dramatically and drastically changed and not for the better. Friendships were strained, families became more and more distant, and the remote Zoom-ing, Skype-ing, and detached fragile efforts at communication were just becoming too old and unappealing. There was finally a break in the doldrums when the local school announced along with the other local campuses that in-class learning was to resume and, with all the social distancing measures in place, there would be safe, monitored, and carefully-orchestrated parent-teacher conferences for those who opted for such a dialogue.
Most everyone was excited at such a gathering, mostly parents and their counterpart educators, many of whom had become close friends throughout the years. There were also a good handful of young students that were looking forward to these days of normalcy ahead as well, with the exception of one small, quite assuming member of our Florida family that we are highlighting today. The usual brightness and smile ran away from his face when he heard this his mother would be accompanying him to school the following week to try to inch toward the “way things used to be,” if only for a fraction of the life they were attempting to maintain.
There are, no doubt, many reasons why this little one would feel this way. Primarily, he was at that age when the common and expected motherly affection embarrassed him especially in front of the other little boys in his class. There may have been that old familiar inner pull of every growing little boy between the comforts of childhood and the not-so-distant calls to adolescence with a tint of manhood whistling away. But there was another reason for his consternation, and it was simple in size as it was complicated in scope. It was a scar. And it was not visible on his own innocent face, but on his mother’s otherwise pristine and smooth countenance. The mark was clearly visible beginning right above her left eye, travelling down diagonally across her Roman nose ending just slightly below her lower lip. Amazingly, no one in the family ever mentioned it or ever even referred to it or questioned its existence, that is, until this very moment in an incredibly young life when apparently, he was feeling some strange type of misplaced shame, perhaps confusing, angering, and perplexing him all at the same time.
As the date and time for the socially-distant and emotionally-bonding parent-teacher-student moment arrived, the little one began to make all kinds of excuses why he could not, or rather, why he would not be there. First, his head ached, then his stomach, then he ran out of body parts to ail and finally said that he just did not want to go without giving any reasonable explanation. Perhaps this is where parental wisdom, which is sometimes only felt and fully understood at the time that it is needed, becomes ready and fit to launch. And so, it was about to do just that. After the meaningful glances between mother and father, the decision was made. “You are going.” And with that, the discussion ended.
Young dread, especially noted on the face of a young child, must be especially painful but altogether necessary in the subline effort to prepare for all the other moments of painstaking remorse and anxiety that awaits any soul maturing along the path of life. This was a case in point with our young man. Quietly keeping to himself for most of the days leading up to the conference, the day finally arrived. Mother and son embarked on the twenty-minute drive to his school as if they were going to a funeral and as soon as they arrived and began to walk toward his classroom, he began to cry, softly but noticeably. As soon as they entered his classroom, he ran into the cloakroom apparently to hide or escape whatever encounter he had been fearing all these days. His teacher, a woman nearly the same age as his mother, appeared a little startled by his behavior but immediately launched into a lively dialogue with the boy’s mother and the two truly began their conference, happily and engaging.
After a few minutes, as if they both ignored their absent son and student from the mix, the teacher took what is possibly a bold but necessary step in asking the obvious question.
“Please forgive me, but I couldn’t help notice the scar on your face. May I please ask what happened?”
With the grace of a true liberated soul who has seen the best and the worst of life, she answered gingerly but not without enough volume so that her hidden offspring could hear and comprehend.
“Of course, I do not mind. It happened years ago when my son was newly born, perhaps only three months old. We were living in a ridiculously small apartment with one small bedroom and barely enough room to move around comfortably. One day a fire broke out in the complex and spread quickly through our section. It had spread to our bedroom where my son was sleeping in his crib. A burning beam had dislodged from the ceiling and was falling toward him, and the last thing I remember was rushing to his crib and blocking it from falling on top of him. I was knocked unconscious, and when I came to, I was in the ambulance, my baby was safe, and now I have this scar. Since that day, I have never, ever regretted what I did that day.”
Not surprisingly, that little boy, having heard everything, ran out of that cloakroom straight toward his mother and hugged her as tightly as he could, and for the rest of the visit, and then some, he never left her side.
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“So I’m thankful for the scars, ’cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart. And I know they’ll always tell of who You are. So forever I am thankful for the scars.” Song “Scars” by I Am They