Monday, September 5, 2011

The Family Ink

When I was a kid, the only person I knew who had tattoos was my uncle and godfather. He had the kind that were typical of the mid-60s, the ones that looked like they were done during his stint in the Army or ones that had to do with riding motorcycles. I'm still not sure what most of them were, but you could only see them during the summer when short sleeves were common. Nobody ever really talked about Uncle Gene having tattoos, but you knew that they were there just under the shirt sleeves.

The occasional person had them in college. Usually the story would go something like this. So-and-so was at a party/spring break/visiting a friend at Ohio University. So-and-so had too much to drink, and they got a tattoo of Taz/the Nike symbol/barbed wire. So-and-so claimed to love it, but you never saw the tattoo unless so-and-so had too much to drink and then you had to listen to all the stories about this one time when they were at a party/spring break/visiting a friend at Ohio University they got a tattoo.

But about ten years ago, men started sporting tribal bands on their arms, and women began to flaunt the ubiquitous "tramp stamp" everywhere from New York City to Springfield. During my first year working as an instructional aide, a student teacher had one. She didn't think anyone could see it, but trust me, everyone did. Occasionally, you would see a male teacher with a tattoo on his calf or a female teacher with a heart on her shoulder blade. Most people got them for very personal reasons. "I was turning 40, so I got a tattoo," was one reason. Another, "Divorce kind of sucked."

The Family Ink
They are kind of in order

Getting a tattoo took some amount of deliberation. Personally, I've always liked tattoos. I like the way that the artists can blend the colors on a very unforgiving canvas. They truly are artists,  using a tool that is operating up to 190 hits per second and one that doesn't have an eraser. So what prompted me to get that first tattoo? I was irritated that my brother chose a wedding date the summer after he got engaged  and not the next summer . . . so I got a tattoo. And I didn't tell my mom. And I did it when she was out of the country. In China. The rest have pretty much just flowed from there.

  • The Girls' birth flower (sweet peas) when they left for college. I changed my opinion on having a visible tattoo as a teacher because I wanted the Girls close to me even if other people could see it. 
  • The Frost quote that I've loved since college. I call it my "cheat sheet" . . . as in, "Hey, shitty day, I learned something about life: it goes on."
  • The C in the crook of my arm. My brother died when I was three and he was nine-months old. I despise the day in January. But I got this tattoo to remind me of him, and it's connected to the Girls through the quote. It has made January 28s bearable to say the least. 
  • The joke on my upper arm. My friend Mary and I went to a Kings of Leon concert and got really, really drunk. I sent a few drunk texts to the Girls that involved the words "getting a tattoo," "the Greatest," and "what are you? my mother." Needless to say, I didn't get the tattoo (I was beyond wasted), but I did get it last October in Columbus during a Flickr meet up. 
  • The ball of yarn. Because I could . . . and because the artist I go to in Stroudsburg does amazing detail work . . . and because he could. 
  • The lyrics. Every night, we had the same routine. Read a book in the rocking chair. Sing "You Are My Sunshine." Kiss goodnight. Go to bed. We had this routine for years. And then they started to get too big for the routine. But they make me happy when skies are grey. 
I don't really know why the Girls have the tattoos that they do. All I know is they were at least 18 years of age when they got their tattoos. After their nose piercings, I refused to sign any more body modification forms for them. I didn't want them sitting around with their friends at school, talking about the time that they were bored/tired/depressed, and their mom signed a form for a tattoo. Those stories needed to be all their own. 


  1. yes indeed those stories will be their own. i have a "tramp stamp" (barf to the term) if that term was common there would be no such "stamp" on my back now... but whatevs... i went on my one yaer anniversary with my husband and we both got inked that night after osme celebrating was had (aka beer). so i love the story behind it even if i am not in love with the tatt. and a sun and moon (cliche i know it) but i still love it. the artist was a hard core, who was truly fab at his craft the colors are still beautiful after almost 20 years (GULP!!!)
    and soon. so very soon, my left forearm will be a new canvas. one i hope to show off with pride. man i love ink. and i love the stories of yours.

  2. I have a cliche rose on my shoulder, 30th birthday present to myself, my Mum told me off when she found out about it 2 years later :))
    great stories of your tats, and they look great.