Last week marked the anniversary of my mom’s death and my first tattoo. No, I did not rush out to get inked just as her spirit ascended from its earthly home, you brute. I waited three years to the date. Then, after my dinner shift ended and my tips were counted, I rushed to the tattoo parlor and squeezed through the door just before the artist flipped the sign from open to closed. I had thought long and hard about it. Getting your first tattoo is a lot like losing your virginity. I had been warned by the colorfully, scenic, tattoo-laden waitstaff at my job that tattoos are, in fact, highly addictive. “Oh, Honey! Once you get one you can’t wait until you get the next one. You get all excited. Then you start getting real creative and finding new places to put ’em.” See? Just like sex. Anywho, I decided that my first (tattoo) would be in homage to my mother. A purple heart with the Chinese symbol for mother on the inside. Smaller than a quarter and over my heart with enough space to clothe it discreetly for any professional interview. Those are my rules. Ask my daughter. She can quote the tattoo rules verbatim. So, off I rushed to the parlor that was decorated artistically with a bit of psychotic flair on the outside. Sidebar: Anyone who subjects themselves, myself included, to a needle filled with ink piercing their skin continuously for at least thirty to forty minutes has crossed the line at least one time. Which line? Take your pick. I squeezed through the door and gave the handsome guy my best puppy dog eyes. “It’s my first time,” I pleaded. “Please. It won’t take long. I promise. [Insert rapid eyelash flutter.]” If he recalls some fond memory of girlfriends past… all the better, man! Tatt me up! He acquiesced and politely showed me his workspace. I dropped my top as much as was required for him to hover over my left breast and sketch out the image I had concocted/selected. He adjusted twice making sure I was pleased with the positioning. I braced my back firmly against the wooden chair and held tightly to the rungs on the side. Slowly, I sucked my breath in deep and closed my eyes tightly just at the needle pierced my skin and I heard him say, “Try not to move.” I told you. Just like sex.
My tattoo was perfect. It still is perfect. Every time I look down at my chest or glance in the mirror I am reminded of the memory of my mom, the memory of her bravery, her life. Would she have approved of the tattoo? Maybe. Probably. More than anything she was an advocate for self-expression and freedom of choice. She taught me to live with my decisions no matter how big or small. She would no more have advised me against the tattoo than she prevented me from joining the military. She said it was my life and my choice – choose wisely. What a great Mom! I try to remember her wisdom when I’m having a tough day. I imagine her looking down on me nudging me along, guiding me and giving me hugs of encouragement along the way. I am sad sometimes. I wish she had been here with me longer. But, I am comforted that the moments we shared will last a lifetime. If ever I want to honor her memory, I pass along a piece of the vital advice she gave to me. Wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident. Always use your manners – that’s what they’re for. And, stand for something or you’ll fall for anything. Those are three I’ve found quite useful. Distribute them as you please!
Persnickety Snit Adjustment: Self-expression is rarely for your approval; it’s usually for the artist’s edification.