Everyone loves a good narrative, a tale of humanity gone right. The best stories, it seems, are the ones where the protagonist overcomes some sort of adversity. Think of surfer Bethany Hamilton, who went on to do great things even after a shark gnawed her arm off. Think of Stephen Hawking, whose brain does great things even though his body cannot. (By the way, I just watched "The Theory of Everything" and it was very good.) The world is full of triumphant tales of amazing people, those who attended the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" school of thought.
Sometimes I look back on my childhood and ponder my own lack of resilience. Although I do have many happy memories from my childhood, I also have a lot of residual sadness. There was a divorce, there were financial issues, and I had (and still have) medical problems.
My youngest sister has been scanning (and attempting to preserve) some old family photos. She's planning to work her way through some of our mom's aging photo albums. She recently shared the photo below with me. This photo is the very definition of bittersweet for me. The sweet part is that I'm pictured smiling, that I'm with my sisters (two of the people who are on my very short list of "people for whom I'd take a bullet"), and I'm at one of my favorite places (Myrtle Beach). The photo was taken in 1982. I was 12. Look at my hands. My condition (vitiligo) was every bit as bad as I remembered it to be. Extrapolate that data, what you can see on my hands, and apply it to my whole body. It was that bad. At times, I hated to leave my house. I felt safe with my family, though. Hence the smile.
It was sort of jarring to see the photo, to have it all come rushing back to me. I wish I could say that I bear no ill will towards people who stared at me at the mall. I wish I could say that I forgive the lady at the Hallmark store who said, "What happened to you?!" Do I forgive the kids (classmates of mine, I assume) who spray-painted obscenities about me on the sidewalk in front of our home while we were on vacation? No. All of those people can suck it. Seriously.
I think this is why I live in fear of raising a mean kid. So far so good, though. My daughter attempts to befriend every person she meets. Plus, I'm so glad she doesn't have to deal with weird medical issues and whatnot. She's beautifully, blissfully, perfectly normal. I try my best not to let her become aware of my rock-bottom self-esteem. That's not a legacy that any mom wants to pass on to her child. Fortunately, she thinks she's awesome (seriously, she put a sign on her bedroom door proclaiming her awesomeness) - and she's right. I hope she always feels that way about herself.
I decided to show the photo to my husband. He has seen a few photos of me as a kid, but I didn't think he had seen one that specifically showed my skin at its worst. I pulled it up on the computer and invited him to take a look.
"You, um, didn't have any boobs," he said.
"I was 12, you loser."
"Oh. Well, that's more alarming to me than your skin, to be honest. I'm not used to seeing you without boobs."
That's my guy.
The other thing about the photo is this: why did no one stop me from wearing a purple shirt and white shorts with red piping? Heavens to murgatroid!