I’m not a fan of tattoos. Until about 15 years ago, this was not too hard to manage in my kids – back when the newly blended family consisted of early teens, late teens, early twenties and a newborn, Anna.
Oh, there were the requisite pierced ears among them. Various colors of hair – white, pink, jet black, even a blue drummer one year. One of the older ones got an eye roll from me when she said that her financial plan for moving to Coeur D’Alene with her boyfriend had a back-up plan – “There’s always the tattoo kit.”
When Nick went to war shortly after high school, there was no surprise when he came home with body art. He was a United States Marine, after all, and a far reach from carefree, laidback San Diego. He carried a weapon and was shot at, so what could I do – spank him? Ground him for a week?
It was tasteful, A circle of two fish, black and white revealing a pattern of the yin yang with sleek curves and artful lines. Home from Iraq, his little brother fresh from high school took a long look and had a puzzled expression on his face?
“What’s that, catfish?”
With aloof sophistication, the marine looked down his nose at the awkward kid, still shy of his first girlfriend. He spoke evenly.
Anna sat on his lap and traced it with her short fingers on her fifth-grade hand.
Then, suddenly, tats were everywhere – on TV drinking Pepsi, on skateboards in cool clothes, on decals at birthday parties. I took Anna to get her ears pierced when she turned ten and reiterated my firm objection.
When she turned 17, Anna’s father died after a long, difficult illness of eight years. It was hard on everyone. She had been Daddy’s girl, walking on his back to loosen his sunburned muscles, going to “work” in his Yacht Outfitting office on the weekends to empty waste baskets and vacuum and standing next to him at the helm of long, white yachts during sea trials. She begged me for a belly button pierce and I took her, just shy of 18, and signed the permission contract.
So last week Anna came to my door and just wanted to hang out. She’s 20 now, even though I still see a baby in that smooth, fair skin and want to kiss her neck a thousand times and hold her in my arms and spin like a top until the giggles bubble out of her perfect lips – she’s a grown up.
We spent a rare hour together, looking at movie trailers, talking about the family, the anniversary of her daddy’s death, her soon graduation from culinary school, her boyfriend. His motorcycle. Finally she got her nerve.
“Mom, there’s something I need to show you.”
A million possibilities flashed through my mind. Then I hit on it.
“Did you get a tattoo?”
She jumped off her chair. “Yes, but they’re totally hide-able and not too…”
She lifted her leggings and there, above each ankle on the inside of her legs were tats. On one side was an anchor. On the other was an old wooden carved wheel.
“I thought you might shun me or be really mad.”
Tears sprang to my eyes and I said with a cracked voice, “They’re beautiful. It’s your body. I love you.”
Circling the wheel were the dates that are carved elsewhere on her daddy’s marble grave marker.
1947 – 2011