Inked and Bonded
A permanent word shared amongst family members.
On the eve of my “gold” birthday as I turn 59 having been born in 1959 I got my first tattoo. It is the word “breathe” with four birds in flight giving it movement. It wasn’t my design but that of my daughter who turns 40 this year and is on her fourth installment of body art. She asked a friend whose gifts included calligraphy to create the word and the Guru Tattoo artist Alex gave the word flight.
I first saw her new addition in a text and was immediately intrigued. When I saw it in person I found it beautiful and compelling. Breathe. My daughter is a high school special needs civics teacher - she needs the reminder everyday. When I complimented her choice for the second time she said, “You should do it Mom! Do it!” at that point I laughed but even my laugh had a question in it- maybe? Over several days of my visit she would remind me that I too could have “Breathe” on my body- and one day I surprised myself by saying - “call your guy- I have one window between 3-430 on Thursday”. Needless to say, all flowed in the direction of my first Tattoo.
Once we were in the car on the way to the studio I started to be nervous. What was I thinking? How much would it hurt? Picking up Grandson Burton from his second grade class provided a welcome delay. “G is getting a Tattoo today”, I told him excitedly. He literally yawned- “I know. Mom told me, can I get a snack?”
Arriving at the Tattoo parlor, my misplaced expectations were surprised by how clean, friendly, and spa-like the place was. Alex welcomed me and showed me the comfortable recliner I’d be using during my treatment. I thought of it as a treatment since he put on his gloves and showed me the sealed needle he’d be using on my arm.
That’s when I told him that I wouldn’t look. “Its not you, I never look when I get blood drawn”. My daughter who was there to cheer me on exclaimed “Mom, you gave birth three times!” And I reminded her “Yes and I didn’t look then either!” “I’m going to begin” Alex said gently as my daughter squeezed my hand and grinned broadly.
The sound somewhere between an electric toothbrush and a dentists drill alarmed me as did the first prickling scratches of the needle. I found myself looking at the word written on her inner forearm— Breathe. I took a few deep ones- calming the fight/flight response that was mounting in my body. After a few grimaces and a few squeezes from my daughters hand. I began to relax just a little. Alex’s words: “that is as hard as it gets, you’ve felt what you will feel now” helped a lot!
I chatted with my daughter looking at her and my grandson and never looking to see what was happening on my arm. After just 20 minutes he declared the birds done and started on the lettering. Other than a few pinches and a momentary freak out when my grandson came running toward us (I was afraid he’d bump us!) I got through the procedure with no tears and finally took a look at what was now a permanent part of my skin!
It was indigo blue against brown skin. I looked at it somewhat perplexed as if I wondered how it got there. Alex chuckled softly, ‘go on, get up, look at yourself in the mirror”. Walking slowly as if I was going to take off bandages to reveal a new me, I was surprised to see my same face looking at my new arm. It was red and puffy and it was permanent. I had very few words, just ‘wow, I have a tattoo.’ He put the clear second skin bandage on and sent me off with one to change into and instructions on how to care for my art as it healed.
My daughters twin brother was the first to have a family tattoo. When his little brother went into the army to serve in Iraq, he had his brothers name inked onto his right shoulder. When little brother came back from Iraq he had my name tattooed on his right upper arm. It said Christie Lynn, my first and middle names, the part of me that didn’t change with my marriages. The essence of me which he said he appreciated and understood. I cried when I saw that tattoo. And now with a word shared with my daughter, we are a family inked and bonded.
Christie Hardwick, Author of The Progressive Wedding Book