Today as I say luxuriating in a self-induced pamper session at my favorite salon, I noticed a tattoo on my stylist’s arm. An odd kind of squiggle.
I’ve long discovered that every tattoo seems to have a great story behind it. So I asked Angie what was hers.
It was her mother’s signature.
Wow! It was an arresting moment for me though Angie little knew it. She rattled on about finding it in the glove box, and the talent of the artist…all the while I sat there thinking: As an artist, I know you sign your work. As an author, you sign your book. Angie’s mother, in her own blessed and ordinary way, was the artist of Angie. As least a co-artist. And her “work” is now forever claimed.
It is impossibly sweet. And sad too. Since the tattoo is a memorial, as many people do, of a loved life lost.
Last night I attended the Senora Butterfly: A Tragic Flamenco Comedy by Kristina de Sacramento, one of the Twin Cities 2012 Fringe Festival events. At the end of the show the cast had us chant what they called the “Fiesta Sing-Along.” It went like this:
“I am me you are you I am me you are you I am me you are you I am me and you are you.”
Tongue-twisters aside, this comes to me now as I think about Angie’s tattoo. The mother-daughter chant is eerily similar I believe. “I am in you, you are in me…”
Now personally, and to hell with Freud as my sister used to quote, I love my mother! I know this isn’t always the case for everyone. And believe me, many days the empathy factor in me registers off the charts for those who missed this blessing.
She is me and I am she.
I wondered, did Angie need a tattoo to see her mother’s signature in her life? Or was it woven through the very core of who she was and the wonderful woman she had become?
Wasn’t my mother’s signature already tattooed on me?
Don’t I already look at life through eyes trained by her, a keen observer, with a love of words to bring meaning to the observation?
Am I not an inventor of creation? A conjurer of animal sightings in the wild, and an awestruck pupil of nature’s notable design?
My heart too, stains my sleeves, as a yearning to live life honestly frequently draws blood.
[All this AND a great haircut! Angie is well worth the money I drop here.]
I get the tattoo idea. I love the story too. But I wonder if the real tattoo isn’t on the body, but on the soul? Or is the mark on the world? Or is it in the heart of another that receives the love the loved one offered, long after they are gone?
I experienced that tonight, though I will never see Angie’s mom, nor possibly, ever think of her again. Because of Angie’s tattoo? Or because of the real testimony of who Angie is?
I wondered what tattoo I would choose some fateful day, if fear of pain were not my MO. Maybe:
- Think of something for us to invent (my mom’s secret hope, that one of us would invent the next toboggan)
- MOM-WOW (her book about retirement)
- One for the little red book (her French aunt’s favorite saying)
- A robin (our yearly bet on who will see the fist one of the season)
- Javy (our propensity of naming the wild animals around us–Javy 5 is the current chipmunk at the cabin)
- Her book (she’s publishing at 80 while I am still struggling to finish my first manuscript)
A thousand images to choose from yet not one captures that moment in my head when I recognize her in my own reaction. A delight in the ridiculous that makes her laugh makes me laugh too. Or cry. Or hope. Or believe.
Who am I kidding? I’ll never get over my fear of pain. But tonight, thanks to Angie (and mom), and my mom too, I am cherishing my first life “tattoo.”
What’s your tattoo story? I bet it is a good one.