Brand building through storytelling

Written on the body

His name was Chris, and when we couldn’t be together I pined for him. A trip to the circus didn’t seem complete when my mother made me leave him behind. All summer at Grandma’s, I talked about his charms to anyone who’d listen. Back home at last, I clutched him to me, hard.

Chris was a grey tabby kitten. I was three, too young to understand that cats need a gentler kind of affection. One day he clawed my cheek in protest. I still have the scar. For years it was the only line on my face; now, I can hardly make it out amid the smile lines. But I like knowing it’s there—a memento of my first love in the world.

I think of that scar as fleshly equivalent of the first ding on a shiny new car, the spilled wine that works its way into a carpet, the frayed cuffs on a favourite blouse. A lived-in body, like a well-used possession, reveals a thing or two about where it’s been and what has happened along the way. It’s a storyteller.

My husband and I have a friend whose thumb has not been right since a brilliant summer afternoon years ago, when he volunteered to help us tame the knee-high weeds behind our new house. Our friend swung the scythe with joyful abandon, exclaiming at the clouds, the birds, his pleasure in hanging out with us. Suddenly his thumb was hanging by a thread and we were rushing him to the ER for reattachment. Whenever I think of this generous, dreamy man, I remember the day he wrecked his thumb on our account.

I haven’t personally suffered any near-amputations. Still, every pivotal phase of my life has left its physical imprint somewhere, as I was once reminded, with breathtaking cruelty, by a lingerie saleswoman who was fitting me for a bra. I was a 24-year-old flower child and had hardly worn a bra since high school. But I needed a job-hunting outfit after two years at home with my toddler, and that’s how I ended up in a fitting room, naked to the waist.

The saleswoman shook her head. “You’re very flat. And you’re very fallen.” She paused for effect, then delivered the coup de grace: “Two fried eggs!” I did not report these comments to the manager. Instead, unnerved by shame, I let her sell me a pointy piece of hardware.

There was nothing really wrong with my breasts (they could even pass the pencil test then), but pregnancy and breastfeeding had changed them forever. Well, that’s life. And anyway, my son’s a keeper, which is more than I can say for the skinny sweaters of my braless days.

I don’t look the same in a swimsuit, either, thanks to a kitchen accident 12 years ago. My husband had been away for weeks, and I was feeling restless and unmoored. To cheer myself up, I thought I’d bake myself a lemon tart. I’m told the recipe is divine, but I never got to find out. While pulling my tart out of a 400-degree oven, daydreaming about this and that, I dropped it, splattering hot lemon custard all over my shorts—and my legs. Result: a large second-degree burn on my thigh.

Thanks to the burn, I made a friend: Mary, the nurse in the health centre at work. She changed a lot of dressings while it healed, and as she worked we’d talk about our lives. I had just come back to the workaday world after years of writing at home, and my best conversations were with Mary. She helped me settle in during those first months. Every time I see that scar, I think of her.

First published in Chatelaine in slightly different form, May 2004. Copyright Rogers Media Publishing.

 

Posted by Rona

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