Woman has pencil lead embedded in her arm for 71 years: 'I was teaching my sister to write her name with a #2 pencil'

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Sometimes siblings are precious, and sometimes they cause headaches. For my mother, growing up with three siblings meant many headaches. Her youngest sibling was the crybaby of the group. She cried over everything. Crying enabled her to get her own way, so she did it a lot.

According to my mother, everyone spoiled her little sister because their mother would do anything to get her to stop crying. That meant they had to cater to my youngest aunt, whether or not they wanted to.

My mother was the third eldest or second youngest, depending on how you looked at it. She was also the most responsible of the siblings, so my grandmother often left her in charge of her youngest sister. My mother was responsible for keeping her sister busy playing games, painting, coloring, or drawing—whatever kept her quiet for the moment so the family, especially my grandmother, could get some peace and quiet for a change.

When my aunt was four years old, my mother decided to teach her how to write her own name. "I was teaching my sister to write her name with a number two pencil," my mother said. "It was a lesson I'll never forget."

She thought her sister would enjoy the activity; she was mistaken.

Her little sister picked up her freshly sharpened pencil and drove it into my mother's arm with all her might, breaking the sharp point beneath the surface of her skin. There is still a clearly visible black mark on that spot of my mother's wrist over seventy years later.

My mother has been telling me this story for decades, and I can still remember that black lead mark from the first time she showed me many years ago. It's still as dark and fresh as it was when I was a child, and the mark was at least twenty years old even back then.

The lead in my mother's arm has never caused her any trouble. It hasn't made her ill or become infected. It's just there, serving as a reminder of that time she tried to teach her four-year-old sister how to write her own name.

"I was only trying to entertain her," my mother told me, "but she would not be entertained. She was just such an unhappy child."

As my mother and her youngest sister grew into teens and then adults, they became close friends who would often laugh at the story of the lead mark on my mother's arm. "I always used to tell her in conversation, 'Remember when you poked me in the arm with a lead pencil?' and we would laugh and laugh," my mother said. "She became my favorite sister after childhood, but she wasn't my favorite sister on that day, let me tell you."

Do you have any funny stories from your childhood about difficult siblings? Comments are welcome.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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