there are scars on caleb that only i notice. they are the faintest milky white and as delicate as watercolour strokes, gently brushed in the curve of his immaculate neck. i love those scars because far from being blemished, he is indelibly, miraculously marked.
he was born with eczema, bad eczema. his neck was always the worst but by a few months old his legs, face and stomach were prone to red, itchy, dry patches. his neck in particular tormented him. once he gained the coordination to control his hands they were constantly bunched up under his chin. he was forever rubbing and clawing at the skin on his neck, taking the pink rash to a hot red, bloodied, seeping sore. at that stage he slept tightly swaddled and couldn’t scratch at himself but i had been reading eczema forums about children waking up covered in blood form scratching in their sleep and feared our dark days were coming. some days were worse than others, but it was always there. sometimes his cheeks were so red and raw that people would wince when they looked at him. he was sore, we were beside ourselves. we stopped using soaps and detergents and anything other than the purest cotton. we had been to more doctors visits than kira has in her whole life, and i secured an appointment with a homeopath who is known for curing the incurable.
then one weekend luke was away. i forget what for but i remember it was tiring. the durban spring air was muggy and hot, which exacerbated caleb’s eczema. by the time sunday morning rolled around i dragged my poor kids to church and immediately regretted it because the heat in that hall was mounting by the minute. caleb (then around 7 months old) began to wriggle and fuss, and, as usual, claw at his neck. i strapped him into his car seat and pushed him around in the back of the hall, trying to catch a breeze and keep his noise to a minimum. it was no use, the heat had blown his rash into the worst i had even seen and when he finally broke the skin and blood started to trickle down to his shoulder straps, i was outta there. i signed to my mother-in-law that i was leaving, the look on her face one of absolute sympathy as she cuddled kira to her lap, silently promising to take her off my overwhelmed hands. i drove home near to tears with frustration that nothing was working. we were uselessly watching as our child marched into a painful future of scratching, bleeding, painstakingly slow healing, rinse, repeat.
i got him home and immediately swaddled him as tightly as i could, tucking his hands into a multi-folded system i had worked out in the special blanket i made from extra-long, extra-stretchy cotton that held him in a cocoon as he fought to scratch through his sleep. once asleep in his cool room, hands restrained in houdini-like measures, i could finally relax a little. at least at this moment he had peace. i had lathered special natural healing ointment on his neck, taking great care over the broken skin and hoped that when he woke, he would be slightly more comfortable.
a few hours later he was crying for me. the usual cry at the usual time. i went to him and leaned over his cot to begin unwrapping him. his little fingers pushed their way out and reached into the cool darkness, for me, for freedom, but not for his neck. i carried him into the light and thats when i saw his skin.i stopped and stared. i ran my fingers over it, the way i had done hours before, but this time my fingertips no longer spreading cream, and his skin no longer broken. it was perfect. skin like i had never seen on him wrapped his tiny neck in unbroken brilliance that bore no signs of the mornings battle. even on his good days, his neck was always pink and scaly, but now it was smooth, even and the perfect tan testament to his hybrid heritage.
having seen the ups and down of his skin over his whole life i knew that it should take at least 3 days for it to come down from such an inflamed mess. but now i was looking in awe at what i knew could only be a miracle. my mental movie went rewinding back to that morning at church and paused on my mother-in-laws pained face as she watched us leave church. she had been hearing him cry, she saw him every other day and knew the extend of his eczema. she must have been praying hard, i thought. because i felt in my very core that this had God written all over it. caleb had not just healed, he had been healed. luke being away and kira still with her grandparents i was alone with my perfect little baby and my labyrinth of thoughts. it felt too good to be true, and i almost didn’t want to attribute this to God in case it came back and i was disappointed, because i know our Father does not deal in sort-of healings. when it’s done, it’s done. but that was almost too much to hope for, although i could imagine no other explanation.
i was still trying to figure out what the other, more reasonable explanation might be when my phone’s chime broke into my thoughts. when i opened my messages, it was my dear friend kara, who has loved my children as her own from their birth. she confidently carried 4 month-old caleb for an entire day while i shot a wedding, for 8 hours she held him and soothed him and lulled him to sleep wrapped to her chest. she has bathed him and rubbed cream on his neck as gently as i have. she knows. she cares.
done. just like that. i knew it was never coming back, a giddy relief filled my heart. i don’t remember what i did next, how i told kara, luke or my mother in law. i don’t even remember the exact date or ages because my mind only has one long day and i’m in it, every day. the memories blur together except for one: