| LifeTakes |

The Scar

A triangle, just the shape of the tip of the iron — and it tells a different story

It’s a small white triangle on the inside of my right wrist,

an exact imprint of the tip of an iron. I was in a hurry that morning, and the iron slipped, or maybe my hand did, or maybe it’s just that my hand-eye coordination is off at that time of day.

I jerked my hand away, but it was too late.

I had no time for the miracle water cure I always use — keep a minor burn in water until it stops hurting, and it won’t leave any mark — so I smeared on some aloe vera gel and got back to my morning routine.

Trying not to get the aloe on the shirt, I finished ironing. It was an awkward morning. The aloe kept rubbing off on other things. My wrist started throbbing, but I had no time to tend to it. I had a bunch of kids I needed to get ready for school.

By the time everyone was on their way, the burn was a puffy, angry blister. It was an awkward shape that didn’t fit neatly under a Band-Aid, and was at the perfect place to keep getting brushed by the ends of my sleeves. I put creams and bandages on it, but they kept getting rubbed off along with the new delicate skin that grew as it healed.

People noticed — the dentist asked about the nasty burn peeking out from the Band-Aid while filling my cavity; my Shabbos guests asked about it when we went to wash. The healing process was slow and painful, and it was inevitable that it would leave a scar. But in the grand scheme of life, a small burn is inconsequential.

That morning, my son had asked me to iron his shirt for yeshivah. How many times have I told my kids not to ask me to do things they could have asked me the day before in the morning? Sometimes I tell them, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to do without  X for today. I don’t have time right now.” Usually, I go ahead and give them what they need, along with a lecture about not waiting until the last minute.

But on that particular morning, I reminded myself that I wanted my son in yeshivah, wanted him to feel comfortable in yeshivah, which included looking put together. So, I kept my mouth closed and ironed the shirt, sending my son off to yeshivah happy with how he looked and knowing his mother was happy with what he was doing. I couldn’t have known then how desperately I’d need the memory of that morning later on.

I’d always worried about this son, since school and learning and comprehension had always been hard for him. But I’d never have dreamed that a few short years after his bar mitzvah, a pandemic would shut down the world and leave my son with no framework for months on end, causing him to find other things to fill his time. I couldn’t have guessed the million factors that would come together to lead this son off the path I so desperately wanted him to follow.

I’d lie in bed at night and remember every mistake I’d ever made with him — all the times I lost my temper, all the times I didn’t show enough love, all the times a rebbi or mashgiach didn’t treat him right and I didn’t stick up for him. Why didn’t I make a bigger fuss?

The scenes would play across the back of my eyelids in slow motion, highlighting every wrong I ever did — impatience and anger and indifference taking their turns shooting arrows at my own child.

Why wasn’t I a better mother?

But I have that small white scar. A triangle, just the shape of the tip of the iron — and it tells a different story. I know there was at least one time I did the right thing. I ironed my son’s shirt. I wanted him to be happy in yeshivah, and I did what I could so he’d feel good there.

Now I imagine that morning, and I almost see a Heavenly Hand guiding the iron onto my wrist, saying, “Here, you’ll need this later. I’m sorry it hurts. Trust Me.”

I finger the small scar, remember the pain it caused, the gift it left in its wake, and trust there’s always a gift hiding beneath the hurt.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 783)

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