Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tattoos: history, hope, healing, and, uh, family bonds, which doesn't start with an 'h'.

I've always been intrigued by tattoos.  Not the trendy, kitschy ones that one whimsically gets for fun, but permanent, thoughtful, well executed body art that holds meaning and nuance to its bearer has always been something I've found inspiring.

Back when I was dealing with the worst of my RSD pain, I was having a lot of trouble walking.  I knew, however, that using my foot despite the pain was the only way I could keep it from getting worse.  Among the many somewhat desperate (and in hindsight, stupid) ideas I had for how to accomplish this was the thought that I should get a tattoo on the bottom of my other foot...that way I'd have my own secret art that would only be seen in situations comfortable enough for me to be barefoot, that would represent healing to me - and more importantly would take some time to heal and force me to favor my 'bad' foot instead.  I had a few very intricate thoughts involving roses created out of various animals, or a rose in front of a yin yang with the stem following the curve...all imagery that spoke to me, but it never felt quiiiite right... but in any case, I was too young for tattoos and later I was too worried that having tattoos would make me less cast-able - and really, the bottom of your foot is a terrible place to get a tat anyway.  As I matured and began to view my body and the way it changed with age as work of art unto itself - nature's art, if you will -  it became less important to me to 'show' meaning and beauty with added imagery, so I let go of the idea of having a tattoo of my own.  I couldn't find anything that mattered in a way that was worth making a permanent mark.

Fast forward to this past January, when my mom got her awful diagnosis.  Suddenly something felt worth making a mark for. I had the thought that she and my sister and I should all get some sort of tattoo that would link us all together and represent our bond. Then I started to worry that mom shouldn't be getting a new tat just then, and started to think that maybe just Kelly and I should get something in her honor. Trying to hone in on just what, however, lead me down a long, existential chain of thought that culminated in me deciding that nothing could represent our connection more than our own bodies, since we were literally OF her, we had come from her body and our own bodies are made from her genetic materials...back to the whole nature's art thing.

So anyway, I let that idea go. 

That is, until I saw on Facebook that Kelly was planning to get her first tattoo.

I sent her a text asking what she was planning to get, and shared with her the mental journey I had recently been on with regards to tattoos. She responded by telling me that she was planning to get a small ladybug on her wrist, an ode to mom and the tattoo she has on her own wrist. "You want it?" She asked.

Mom has a story about one of her patients trying to swat the bug off her arm that always amused me.  When Cadence came along, she used to try to catch the bug on mom's arm, too!
That's perfect, I thought, I can't believe I didn't think of that.* It would be a way of linking us all together without mom needing to do anything, and it could potentially even imbue her own art with new meaning that she could cherish. It was simple, it was tasteful, it was a bold move...

We both sat with the idea and talked it though over the course of a few weeks, and hit on a plan that just felt really right, to both of us.

Unbeknownst to mom, we each designed our own ladybugs, in our own style, that fit with the meaning we each needed and wanted individually, and then made appointments to have them permanently inked onto our own wrists, in her honor, with love for her, and each other...

My final design

Kelly's final design


I couldn't be happier with the results. 

My realized ladybug
We told mom about it after it was done, which - since mine was done first and I didn't want to ruin the surprise before Kelly's was done - involved a few hilarious days of me sneaking around hiding mine from her like some rebellious teenager. She seemed touched, and when I got home that evening we gleefully compared ladybugs and made plans to snap a pic of all three of them together next time we get to see Kellebelle.
Kelly's realized ladybug

This was the right choice.  I am feel comforted by and so enjoy my little ladybug companion already - it feels like I've merely uncovered something that was already there.

Many Many MANY thanks to Gilda at Fatty's Custom Tattoz for the amazing work and joyous experience.  She agreed to take this on and fit me into her schedule on short notice, and her work is incredible.  She made me feel so comfortable, and talked to me about the whole story behind it before she began working.  And when she did, she started with a hug.

Gilda rocks.
Also, as a total aside:  It occurred to me as I was sitting in the chair that I got that skirt at a goodwill as a costume for my 8th grade musical. Wow.

* My friend Shino later informed me that I had mentioned this as a possibility months ago, though in this moment, I had no recollection of that, so Kelly still gets full credit for the idea...although we have also discussed how eerie it is that we both had the same instinct, and this just adds to that. Kelly calls it sibling telepathy. She's probably right.