You always understood that there’s something inside us that needs to write our words and create our art. After you wrote your children’s stories, even if they were just going to be filed away in a drawer, you also drew or painted illustrations. And sometimes you added music as well, singing songs and humming melodies as you typed the stories and created watercolor pictures.
Author Sylvia Plath wrote, “Wear your heart on your skin in this life,” but one thing you were never tempted to do was get a tattoo. The only question I ever heard you ask of someone wearing a tattoo was when you smiled at a young man with a multi-colored dragon tattoo and said, “Did it hurt?” He returned the smile and said, “Yeah, kinda, but it was worth it.”
As a writer, I have many favorite words and quotes, but there’s never been a phrase or a symbol I wanted to wear permanently. I am, however, fascinated by those who do. In the spirit of last week’s post—asking WHY?—I admit I want to know both the What and the Why of tattoo choices.
One of my favorites is actress Susan Sarandon’s AND AND tattoo. It means A New Dawn A New Day, and the way I heard her explain it in an interview, it’s a reminder that whatever happens, tomorrow is a new day and a fresh beginning.
Many athletes wear art and numerous messages and symbols. People of all careers and ages whose professions discourage tattoos, wear them on places they cover with professional attire. Before the dementia, you would smile pleasantly when you saw a heavily tattooed person, but later you’d shake your head and ask me, “Do you understand why they do that?”
Actually, Mom, in some cases I do. And if you were free of the dementia and could see your granddaughter’s most recent tattoo, I think you would understand, too. The WHAT: four hearts—one green, one orange, one pink, one blue—surviving a whirling tornado. The WHY: the four hearts represent the favorite colors of the four members of their family, symbolizing their love for each other, and gratitude for surviving the devastating tornado that destroyed much of their little town in 2008.
Yes, Mom, I think you would understand the permanent art your granddaughter wears on her ankle. You’d probably want to know if it hurt to get tattooed, but you’d be grateful that her family survived the tornado, and you’d celebrate with them.
Author Jack London wrote, “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”
I would add to that: “The same is true of a woman.”
I have some very interesting things in my past, Mom, but I don’t think I’ll get any tattoos. And that’s okay. I’ll write about them instead, so I can edit, correct and delete…without pain.