An old scar is suddenly itchy, forcing me to remember a time of which I have no recollection. It’s a penny-sized crater, puckered on my right side, kissing my rib cage. My body’s permanent dimple. I mindlessly sweep my fingertips over its edges, wondering if it’ll hurt. It never has. If it ever did, I have no idea. They say “every scar has a story,” no matter how big or small. This forgettable divot is my scar, but it wasn’t my story.
About two months before my mom’s due date, it was clear I wouldn’t make it to term if she didn’t have a C-section—and soon. On January 11, 2001, my mom got a call that her procedure was scheduled for the next day. With little time to process, my parents prematurely had a third kid. Their hopes of me being a spring baby were gone, and I wasn’t in the clear yet.
I had a rare condition called chylothorax—lymph fluids had accumulated in my chest cavity, making it hard to breathe and creating the potential for lung damage. After being in an incubator, undergoing major surgeries and being hooked up to tubes for ten weeks, the condition healed on its own and I was able to go home with grateful parents, and a new imprint on my body.
Calling this my “background” feels fitting for the sheer lack of space it takes up at the forefront of my mind. I can recall the way my life began only through stories I’ve been told. I have the facts, but have to infer the emotions. Where does a story reside when its physical proof and its memory are separated and can never coexist?
The way my parents recount my birth is wildly detached from my sense of self. I imagine it feels a bit separate from the way they see me now. But how much did my birth affect the way they treated me? The feeling of dread and unadulterated fear stored in their bodies, puppeteering their perception of the kid they almost lost. Their wound, for which I got the stitches.
My parents lived a lot of life before they had kids. I’d like to say that their experiences shape the way I see the world, but I am only affected by the way they choose to relay those moments. Adults should be the all-knowing, omnipotent wizards. But we are all living life for the first time. To think about them going through my birth as young parents, as parents at all, is heartbreaking—a feeling that is more poignant than a memory.
We all know what it’s like to hear our inner dialogue—you are your main character, whether or not you conform to the trope of embodying the lead role. And that doesn’t exclude my parents, or any family for that matter. I have my narratives and they have theirs. My first dog was my mom’s third; my visits to Cleveland throughout the years were my dad’s trips home; I’m temporally part of their lives while they are the entirety of mine. Even for the times that our stories intersect, our memories and perceptions remain utterly different.
The silver lining to being born two months early was having the same birthday as my grandpa. When I was little and he would visit on January 12th, he would ask me:
“Marin, whose birthday is it today?”
“Yes! Anyone else’s?”
Sorry, Grandpa. I’ve learned to share by now.
Once I caught onto the fact that it was someone else’s birthday on the same day as mine, I became confused about why he was so much older than me. Obviously if he was born on my birthday, it must have been my birthday, so where did he acquire all of his years?
My grandpa Marvin was one of the most humorous, loving, curious, family-oriented people I knew. I remember him best through his stories. Whether he was talking about our family, his career, or winning a pickle-eating contest, his character traits shone through. I’m lucky to have been in his life for 16 years, but I always yearn to hear more—more stories from his repertoire of tales. I now settle for living vicariously through my dad’s words. I know I get my love of fruit from my grandpa because I’ve heard the story of him eating an entire bowl of clementines in one sitting countless times; I can paint a picture of my dad sitting on my grandpa’s shoulders as a kid, eating a peach, the juice dripping onto my grandpa’s head, welcomed by a joyous laugh. Those stories never go away and will always be a part of how I see my grandpa.
People are puzzles in motion, never complete. It’s impossible for me to fully understand who my grandpa was because I lack some context for his life. But that doesn’t change how much love I have for him. My reality of him is unique. It’s mine.
The same goes for my own story. I’ve inherited my parents’ version of my tale to be my own. I feel empowered by carrying their knowledge with me, validating their experiences. I choose to connect to a story that is permanently woven into my body’s quilting, manifesting in the divot just below my ribs—for that, I am grateful.
Sometimes my mom will ask me if the obvious puncture in my body’s envelope bothers me, and I always reply with “no, I frickin’ love it.” Everytime a shirt pinches the dent in a new way, or a low-hanging arm hole welcomes a breeze over the spot, or someone asks “WOAH! Did you know you have a hole there?!” I smile. I will always welcome a story about my past. And for my first tale, I have a souvenir that retells it to me every day.