*Originally published in 2011, modified since then as life has lots of twists and turns, doesn't it?*
Tara Cain at Sticky Fingers used to host The Gallery every week, I had never participated but I did love reading everyone's posts every week.
When she announced a particular weekly theme, Faces, I immediately knew that I wanted to take part but what photographic face would I choose?
First I thought of the faces I miss, faces that have played a big part in my life and that appear in plenty of my photos but that, unfortunately, are no longer with us.
I thought of a particularly special face I lost at the beginning of that year, my grandad's.
I also thought of that ecstatic first photo taken when my baby was born and handed over to me for the first time...
I even considered unknown faces that I have photographed in my travels, fantastic faces that hide mysterious stories.
Then I looked in the mirror and realised which face I wanted to write about: mine.
I am, after all, a woman of many faces.
My face comes with a soundtrack, so press play if you fancy a bit of music to go with this post, or just hear it at the end to understand me better.
This track, Brandi Carlile's The Story, was the soundtrack to my life for a while (I still can't hear it without tears in my eyes), along with the fantastic tune that is I will survive, but that one doesn't make me cry, that one makes me dance!
I actually left a conversation half-way once, literally: I apologised to the poor girl who had never before met this crazy woman before telling her "I'm sorry but this is my soundtrack" and ran to the dance floor to dance to Gloria Gaynor's fantastic voice.
When I say I am a woman of many faces I don't mean that I am two-faced, false or hypocritical (far from it), I literally mean that I have had many faces.
This was my first face:
I lost that face on July 26th 1991 at 1pm when a shiny bullet of a car ran me over on a pedestrian crossing after appearing out of nowhere at high speed.
Unfortunately, I am not bullet-proof.
In honour of that moment the mirrors were covered in the house for a while.
No, it's not a Spanish tradition, my face was hurt quite badly and my parents chose for me not to freak myself out every time I went to the bathroom, not that I would have since I needed help anyway but they weren't ready to chance it!
There are photos of that face but I would much rather not see them, instead here you have one from a few weeks later that is a bit blurry (probably better that way) as I had to dig hard for a photo of that time and I have downloaded it from a friend's Facebook page and then cut it because it was a group photo taken at the beach, taken with my camera though but I have probably buried it somewhere.
A few minutes after this photo was taken we boarded one of those long inflatable devices towed by a powerboat (you know what I mean, right? No? It's the sausage towed by the speedy boat... still no?).
Anyway, it was great fun and the start of a new face as the main scab fell, if you're going to lose a scab you might as well lose it in sea water falling from a big sausage.
This must be one of the few photos without a wide-brimmed hat and huge sunglasses taken that summer, I wore total sun block and had a white face for weeks, I don't mean pale, I literally mean white from the cream.
When I went out at night guys used to ask whether I had been in a fight, worst chat-up line I have ever heard, repeatedly!
One minute I was a seventeen year old sometimes having deep conversations with friends (we always did), sometimes superficial ones like whether we would ever have plastic surgery and what bit of us we would change (I always said my nose because I had smashed it against a girl's bony shoulder at school when I was 8 and it had a bit of a bump but always following with "I know it gives me personality though" and my friends always agreed) and the next minute I was wishing I had my other older nose back!
My whole face back! A whole of a millisecond back so that it would all be just a nightmare.
I had to spend about 16 months with that face, a Picasso face, until the day of my reconstructive surgery, I was 19 then and I didn't sign it off until just before I had to go in, in fact the night before as I headed to the hospital for an early morning start I still wasn't sure whether I was going to sign on the dotted line.
After all, I had just got used to my new face, finally, what if something went wrong, what if I didn't wake up, what if...
In the end I got all feisty and I did, six hours later (much longer than they anticipated), I came out of surgery with:
- half a face lift (to level my right eyebrow with the left as I looked a bit wonky)
- a cast on my nose (which they had to file down a lot more than they hoped as they found a lot more damage on my face than they expected, hence the longer surgery)
- implants on both my cheeks and on my chin
- and other things that my surgeon tried to explain to me the day before but that I wasn't ready to listen to, otherwise I would have never authorised the surgery
The mirrors were covered again in the house, my face was all bruised and swollen from the surgery.
There are photos, I have seen them, that face wasn't pretty.
About a month after the surgery they had to remove the implant on my left cheek as they had not been able to stop the infection it caused, the left side of my face was just too damaged to accept it and so decided to reject it.
During Christmas 1992 I had a swollen face, I must have scared the crap out of a lot of people in Disneyworld Orlando with my balloon-like face.
By the beginning of 1993 I looked normal again and people were telling me I looked like when I was a kid!
The surgeon had asked for lots of photos of me from before the accident so that was quite reassuring to hear and it was good that people could recognise me as me again.
I don't particularly like my new nose, it is too goody two-shoes, which doesn't exactly match my fiery personality 😉
And the fact that they had to take one of the cheek implants out means my face is still rather asymmetric but the overall effect is good, no visible scars thanks to my magician surgeon who was with me pretty much from day one.
This, of course, means I can blend in much more easily and not stick out like I did for a while.
Why did I have the good luck of having one of Spain's most brilliant reconstructive surgeons by my side from day one?
That was down to my feisty grandma (it does run in the family), poor guy was holidaying near where we were with his new girlfriend at her parents' beach house when my grandma, who was great friends with his girlfriend's mother, heard of my accident and hired him on the spot, he came to visit not long after and immediately gave me some brilliant advice to save my left eye from an unsightly scar (I am shortsighted and was wearing glasses when I had the accident).
He once called me his work of art, in the next breath he told me it would be easy to reduce the size of my saddlebags (which were and still are fabulous thankyouverymuch), I never went to his surgery again!
With my new face there are bad days and good days, I was out of the hospital quite quickly after the accident because someone missed something very important that was going on underneath all the burns and bruises.
I managed not to break any legs or arms, although they thought I had broken them all, I have good strong extremities me!
However, my jaw injuries never healed properly and so I am in pain on a daily basis.
Because of the implant rejection one of my dark circles is deeper than the other (above all on a bad day) and one eye is different to the other, it even looks more opaque in the photos (see above).
But no one seems to really notice these things, just me.
However, that day, that accident, that pain have made me who I am.
They made me determined and strong (the true meaning of feisty) and they made me realise what I wanted and did not want in my life.
I am pretty sure that, had I left the house a few seconds later or earlier that day, I would not be writing this as Feisty Tapas, I probably would not live in England and the chances of me running a cooking website or even cooking as much as I do would be very slim.
In fact, the chances of me having remained any sort of feisty or fiery would have been very small.
My life would be very different.
This is my story "through the faces". It has all come full-circle now: my little girl shares my first face, she does in fact look exactly like her mummy at her age.
I have managed to include a photo with my grandad, who passed away not long before I originally wrote this.
I leave you with the words of the brilliant Brandi Carlile:
All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am. So many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am...
Now, do me a little favour and go to a mirror near you, look at your face, admire every single detail, line and frown and today, just today, toss the eye cream, smile and enjoy the face that you were given because, I can assure you, it is a lovely face.
PS- I have chosen "good" photos as I would not want to scare anyone!
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Wow, what a story. He obviously did a very good job because you would never know to look at you now 🙂 xx
Such a hard to tell story but a great one with your positive outlook at the end shinning through. You would never know from looking at your face what you had to go through - you look fantastic 🙂
Karin @ Cafe Bebe says
I am simply blown away by your post. So pleased that you pressed publish and you are simply beautiful! Hugs xx
This is the most amazing story, so glad I read it. The thought of your daughter having your "first face" is quite a profound one.
An incredible story and you have come through so much. I should imagine this was quite difficult to write, but so pleased you shared it. Your wedding photo is radiant! x
Mari's World says
What an incredible story and I apologise for the day we meet, if ever, that I start to stare I'm not being rude I have just been captivated by your story, you are amazing and beautiful too
Oh and your grandmother is priceless! What a woman
Here come the girls says
Wow - amazing, heatrtbreakingly beautiful story. You look beautiful in all the pictures. Your daughter is so lucky to have you as a role model.
five go blogging says
Such an amazing and brave story. I love the fact that fate has led you to your family x
The undomesticated scientist says
wow! makes you realise how important a face is.
What a beautiful story and an amazing take on the theme. Lovely pictures x
Feisty Tapas says
Thank you everyone, I'm blown away by all your comments. It was a bit of a tough one to write so I'm glad you all like it and took the time to read it. Sorry that with being Blogger I can't reply to you all one by one but I really appreciate each and every one of your comments.
A lot of people who meet me tell me "You would never know" when they hear the story and it is true that I was very lucky and I have no obvious scars on showa, I carry them all underneath the reconstructive work.
Being the "invisible mum", I don't have that many recent photos of me and the ones I have are the ones with a tired but happy face (must consider wearing make-up more often). I feel that my face has changed again in the last year and a half but doesn't every mother's face?
Wow, what a story. Very brave of you putting that out in public. Maybe someone in a similar situation will come across this and it'll help them out.
And the others are right, you'd never know from looking, but we all know what you mean about the scars being underneath.
I'm a little dumbstruck, really not the story I was expecting to read today. Thank you for sharing it truly is an amazing story and a beautiful wedding photo to finish
what a journey.
You look amazing in all the photos - I would not have guessed!
Go you - thanks for sharing X
What a post! You look stunning on your wedding day. How brave of you to share your story.
You have been through so much, and thank goodness you are so feisty and so brave 🙂 I had read about your accident in a previous post but hadn't realised quite the extent of the damage it caused to you. I think you are an incredible lady, and having been privileged enough to meet you I can honestly say that you'd never know you'd been through such a traumatic experience and the surgery following it. Thank-you for sharing xxx
Really amazing post.
And you have such a gorgeous face now that I never realised how damaged it was.
I knew you'd been injured years ago, but not the extent of it.
Feisty Tapas says
Thank you itsadadslife, mutteringsofafool, helloitsgemma, Laura CYMFT, somethingblue_2 and minibreakmummy for your comments. I had a brilliant make-up artist on my wedding day. I hardly ever wear make-up so I asked her to make me look like me, just a slightly improved version of me, and she did a great job; above all bearing in mind that I wouldn't let her apply too much foundation: I knew that on my wedding day I needed to recognise myself in the mirror.
itsadadslife: thank you, that is the goal of a lot of my posts about my fear of driving (and this accident is the root of that fear)
Older Mum says
That's an incredible story. You look beautiful by the way!
Tara Cain says
That is such an amazing piece. Thanks so much for posting it; I know it must have been difficult to write x
Actually Mummy says
And your face is beautiful too! What a terrible thing to have to go through at such a crucial age. A brilliant Gallery post.
Thanks so much for joining in with the love Mummy Blogs Showcase last week 🙂
That's an incredible story; I really wouldn't know about the accident if I met you on the street - you're still beautiful.
My chin didn't develop properly and is still that of a child's, with a big round muscle. I could have it lengthened but it would mean months and months in hospital, excruciating pain and a complete change in my appearance. Unlike in your case it would be purely cosmetic, so I decided I was just going to live with it. I am who I am!
I'm glad you grandmother snagged you such an amazing surgeon; it sounds as though he repaired just about all the damage. Was the driver of that car ever found?
Feisty Tapas says
What happened to the driver... that is a whole new blog post on its own. Such a long story.
I am sure you are beautiful exactly as you are and in fact you are about to get married to the love of your life!