***BEWARE HERE BE SPOILERS!***
Saturday May 15 2021 is Vascular Birthmark Awareness Day. Did you know that? Because I didn’t.
No wonder. Birthmarks are not something people talk about. More particularly, they’re not often depicted in films, TV shows and novels. Why then, did I decide to give Bradley McCreedy, the younger of the two heroes in Note to Boy, a birthmark on his face?
It was an instinctive decision. At the time, I was simply looking for something that would increase Bradley’s feelings of isolation and resentment. Nothing deeper than that. Note to Boy is, after all, meant to be a comic novel that entertains, not an issue-driven tale. But then the idea grew to be more significant and central to the story and to his character.
Birthmarks are very common, I’ve learnt. More than ten per cent of babies have one of some sort or another. And they come in many kinds, shapes, sizes and colours. Bradley’s is a haemangioma, usually known as a strawberry birthmark, above his left eye. It bothers him. Or rather, how people react to it bothers him.
“Don’t know what gives me the most aggravation: the gawpers, the smart-arses, or the head-on-one-side, sad-faced do-gooders.”
If you’ve read Note to Boy, you’ll know that this is, at its heart, a story of redemption through an unlikely friendship. In his rough-and-ready way, Bradley rescues Eloise. In her batty way, she rescues him. By the end of the book, he’s grown into his own skin. And that includes his birthmark.
“And while they’re firing their questions at me, do they talk to the place just above my left eyebrow? And while they think I’m not looking, do they cop a sneaky gawp at the thing on my face? Truth is, I’m that busy, I can’t say as I notice.”
So on Vascular Birthmark Awareness Day, it’s good to remember that we’re all a lot more than what can be seen on the outside. More than a birthmark.