Sometimes we play a game called "Scar Wars" with our teenagers. Scar Wars is a great game in which each participant tells the story of one of his or her scars.
Ideally, you would tell your best scar story. The scar story that is the most gruesome, the most shocking, the most idiotic, the most suspenseful, or the most hilarious. As you might imagine, the game quickly becomes an exercise in storytelling, exaggeration, one-upmanship, and vocabulary. The winner is often the one who can come up with the most convincing description of pain - "searing, excruciating, blinding, debilitating" - that sort of thing. If not, then it's the person who was doing the most moronic thing when they got scarred. Like the last time we played, Caleb won for holding a gas can too close to a fire in his back yard when it combusted in his hands, giving him a tiny cluster of perfectly round scars where the drops of burning gasoline landed.
(You can see why this is a great game for middle schoolers. And boys. And those with a flair for the dramatic.)
Sometimes we use a bracket system to determine the winner, and sometimes we use a trusty applause meter, but no matter the method, winning Scar Wars comes with the respect and bragging rights due a good scar.
Today, in honor of Star Wars Day ("May the 4th be with you") I decided to share some of my best Scar Wars stories with you.
Most idiotic: One afternoon, as my little brother and I were playing unsupervised in the basement (all good stories start this way), we decided, "Let's take these old couch cushions and stack them in a big pile. Then let's stack these books onto this folding chair onto this swivel chair and use our masterfully constructed tower to climb up on top of the deep freezer. Then we can jump off the top of the freezer onto our cushion pile!"
And that is what we did.
The thing I like about this story is that it is impossible to predict where the injury occurred. Did I fall off of the book/folding chair/swivel chair tower? Did the deep freezer tip over? Did my brother land on me? Did I miss the cushions? The possibilities are endless. Here's what actually happened: I made it up the swivel chair, then the folding chair, then the books and onto the freezer successfully. I was perched on top of the freezer, crouched down so that my head wouldn't go through the ceiling tiles. I launched myself off of the freezer and landed onto the soft, springy pile of couch cushions. In fact, the cushions were so springy, that they in turn launched me (and by "me" I mean "my forehead") right into a protruding corner of the wall.
At this point I had a very intense multi-sensory experience. First I heard my brother go "WHOAH!" Then I felt my head pounding, then I saw swirly blackness, then blood. Then a lot of blood. A minute later we were upstairs and my dad was gently cleaning my face and saying, "You got a little boxing cut right in your eyebrow. It's really small, they just bleed a lot. What were you guys doing anyway?"
"Oh, we were just jumping off of the deep freezer."
I think that all kids should play unsupervised in basements so that they can amass these kinds of character-building experiences.
One afternoon, my little brother and I were playing unsupervised in the cul-de-sac. We were building bike ramps with Erica and her brothers. You know bike ramps - where you put a cinderblock in the middle of the street and 2 big pieces of plywood going up one side and down the other. As bike ramp professionals, we knew that the trick to getting some serious air was to back all the way up to the end of the street, pedal as hard as you could (so that your bike reached maximum velocity by the time you hit the ramp), and then jerk up on your handlebars just as your front tire hit the peak.
Why did our parents let us do this?
You might not know this yet, but there is an irrational, first-born, competitive, insecure, perfectionist monster living inside of me. I have a problem saying no. I want to be the valedictorian of everything. I wanted to be the valedictorian of bike ramp jumping.
I stared intently down the street at our make-shift ramp. Focus. I leaned forward onto my toes and pedaled with all the strength in my thighs and calves and abs and arms. And just as my front tire crossed the little black line where the two sheets of plywood met, I yanked up on my handlebars with gusto. And I flew.
Then, in slow motion, I flipped. An X-Game-caliber 360°. Then I landed. Then my bike landed on top of me. Then my friends rushed over with great concern. Then I looked up and said, "Did you guys see that? I flew like 3 FEET in the air!" Then I hobbled inside and my mom poured peroxide on my knees and I hated her. Then I was a legend.
(You absolutely should listen to comedian Brian Regan talk about his bike ramp experience here. Laugh out loud funny.)
Most miraculous: When I was 17, I was in a car accident that should have wrecked me. I was driving at night, in the rain, on the freeway, heading home from a show downtown. I realized, through the sheets of rain, that my exit was coming up quicker than I thought. I should have gone on to the next ramp and circled back through town, but I didn't. I switched lanes in a hurry and my car hydroplaned.
I fishtailed the whole way down the exit ramp, all my efforts to regain control in vain. In slow motion I spun twice and hit a tree, right on my driver's side door - I must have been going at least 45 miles per hour.
I remember seeing flashlights, a blonde woman inside the ambulance, watching them cut off my clothes, waking up inside a CAT scan on a bright orange backboard and picking tiny shards of glass out of my shoulder. Then I woke up for good and my Dad was there.
When we went to see the car, we were stunned. The drivers side seat was gone. The impression from the tree was so deep that the door was bent in past the center console. My steering wheel was sticking out of the drivers side door - right through the metal. The roof had waves in it; it looked like half a car. The tree struck right where I was sitting.
I didn't break a single bone. I didn't have a single cut on my face. In fact, I didn't really have any cuts at all - a couple little nicks from glass, a tiny one on my shoulder and one on my elbow. I walked out of the hospital that night a little nauseous, a little bruised, and on A LOT of muscle relaxers, but largely, miraculously, fine.
Most disgusting: The scar, formerly known as the black crater of burnt flesh on my forehead, formerly known as a pyogenic granuloma, formerly known as skin cancer, formerly known as "what the heck is that bump on my head?" (Story here.)
So happy Star Wars Day, and happy Scar Wars day. May the fourth be with you!
(Share your best Scar Wars story in the comments and I'll do the applause meter in my house. I'll also share my favorites in a post next week. Spread the word. #Scarwars)