“Over my dead body,” said my mother in 1998, when I told her I wanted to get a tattoo. “You’re not going to desecrate that body I gave birth to, do you hear me?”
And that was the end of my plan to have a green dragon inked on my shoulder. Never mind that I was 44 years old, and that I thought it would be cool to show my 7th grade students that I really was the “dragon lady” they thought I was. Mom had said “No,” and I set my idea aside for awhile.
But Mom unexpectedly died in late March, and her “over my dead body” admonition took on a whole new meaning. Coupled with the idea that whatever I now chose would somehow honor her, I became re-obsessed with the idea of getting a tattoo.
“My Bob” had gotten a tattoo in a shop in Maui during our trip in 2008. My friend Alex had dared me to get one when he got his entire back and sleeves done a couple years ago. Sadly, both Alex and Bob are gone now, too. I had no tattooed counsel to advise me, but my heart said loud enough to speak for both of them: “Go for it.”
So I was determined to go for it—in Maui, in the same shop where Bob got his work done. It seemed fitting, and appropriate, and right.
For Mother’s headstone, my brother and Rick and I had selected a hummingbird visiting a fuschia blossom. Mom absolutely loved hummingbirds, and she grew lush fuschia hanging baskets every year just for them. I made the decision that my tattoo would be a petite little hummingbird, with its beak pointing toward my heart.
I visited five or six shops, but ended up returning to Skin Deep Tattoos on Front Street. On Mother’s Day (symbolism is one of my strong suits), I climbed the stairs to the second-story parlor with my knees shaking, and put $50 down for a hummingbird tattoo.
The tattoo was scheduled for the last day before departure, so I could still go swimming every day, but I was cautioned not to get my shoulder sunburned, or I couldn’t get it done. Naturally, I wore a t-shirt the entire next week, in and out of the pool.
On our last full day, at the appointed time, Rick went along for moral support. I finally met Amy Justen, whose countertop portfolio had convinced me she was the gal for this job. And she was. She even talked me into getting not just a hummingbird, but to add two fuschia blossoms to the design.
She drew a sample, we discussed it, she made a slight tweak or two, then expertly stenciled the design to my arm. OMG! I was really going to do this!
Amy mixed colors and placed 15 or 20 little inkpots on the table in front of her. She wrapped the chair arm in cellophane, broke out the needles, and loaded her “gun.” For my part, I broke out in a could sweat. What if it hurt too much? What if I moved? What if I panicked and went out the door screaming like a child?
I asked if Rick could come back behind the counter and document her progress with photos. Amy smiled and said he could sit right beside me the whole time. Little did he know I would imbed my fingernails into the palm of his hand while my arm was being inked, but that’s exactly what I did. I held his hand the whole time, except for the brief moments he got me to let go so he could snap another photo.
Did it hurt? Yes, but not too much. And every time Amy lifted the needle, it didn’t hurt at all, so the pain wasn’t constant. She worked quickly and efficiently, and in just 45 minutes of actual needle time, she was finished!
And there it was—my very own hummingbird and fuschia tattoo—unlike anyone else’s in the whole world. And it was at this point that I got tears in my eyes. It was exactly what I wanted: It was perfect!
Today, now that it’s all “healed and peeled,” I’m still loving it. It was exactly the right thing to do, at the right place and time, and it will always be there to remind me to be brave and follow my heart, no matter what. (Thanks, Rick!)
Aloha! Stay tuned!