She’s So Vain!

Kindergarten Photo

It was one of those monumental moments.

I was five. I was bouncy and talkative. One evening before the sun went down, I was bouncing and talking nonstop to my father. It involved turning in tight airplane circles, dancing a slap step-step, cartwheels, hopping on one foot, jumping up and down on both feet, and the faster I moved, the faster I talked.

Dad was sitting on the front stoop, where there were two steps up to the little porch, a big blue hydrangea bush beside it. He sat like all men do, the knees of his gray trousers apart, his forearms resting on his knees, holding a cigarette between his second and third fingers. In 1955, that’s what fathers did. They worked all the live long day and then came home and sat on front stoops and watched Bermuda grass grow and cars kick up dust on yet unpaved streets in brand new neighborhoods. And they smoked cigarettes.

I whirled and twirled and talked with abandon until I took one hop too many and smashed my face smack dab into the lighted end of the cigarette. I got branded — a round circle the circumference of a cigarette on the right side of my chin just above the jawline. I belonged to Ray Hardy and had the imprint of his Lucky Strike to prove it. I was marked for life.

I’m pretty sure I screamed bloody murder about it, but I only remembered one thing looming out there. I had kindergarten pictures in two days, and this burn of the flesh wasn’t going to get well and go away in two days. I cried about it. Bawled, because it was going to show in my picture. I was just plain mad about it, too.

On picture day, Mama smeared make-up — two layers of it — on the round scab that had formed. Then she put powder on top of it. It caked against that red-black scab and wore off during the morning. All this to say, the scab showed up in my school picture.

I was five. I was vain at five. Was I supposed to be vain at five? Why did I care what I looked like? Was I born to be a worrier?


“Do you have a scar from it?” my husband asked when I told him about it this morning.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, then looked in my mirror that magnifies things 7x.

Omigosh. There was a faint, barely visible, remnant of a scar. I was marked for life.


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