An Ode to My Mother
I absolutely love tattoos. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted artwork on me. I would draw all over my jeans, arms, binders, and whatever else I could with pictures, words, and designs. There is something about being able to express yourself permanently that has always fascinated me. It was never a question of what I was going to get as a tattoo; it was a matter of when I could.
Now, I don’t want this story to make people sad. Instead I want people to see the tragic beauty it entails of how love is a beautiful thing that survives even after death. At the age of 16 I lost my mother to pancreatitis due to living a rather unhealthy lifestyle. It was definitely the hardest thing I have gone through. Our relationship was rocky, especially due to both of our lack of sobriety. We never truly got to have the relationship we both wanted, but I loved her more than anything. She was my best friend.
Once it reached closer to my 18th birthday, I really started to put thought into what I wanted to do (besides getting my license, finally!). I decided I wanted to get a tattoo on my birthday, now, what to get? A family friend had sent me some abstract drawings my mom had published in an art magazine. Right away I knew which one I wanted. So I planned a party to be held at my house on my birthday, March 1st. It would be a regular party with people, food, and drinks. But it would also be a tattoo party, with an artist who would be there to give tattoos to those who were of age. Everybody had arrived; we all hung out in the basement as I waited for Erik, the artist, to arrive. He finally got there and I showed him to the bench that we would be working at. As I sat there in my blue dress I was thinking to myself how excited I was that this day had finally came. I watched him put down two shiny metal boxes and he started to set up. He pulled out a tattoo gun, some chords, a foot pedal, paper stencils, some plastic packages, and various tones of ink. I had never been so close to tattoo equipment, my heart began to race and my anxiety rose with excitement. He handed me one of the plastic packages, I can still hear the faint crinkling sound it made. It was a tattoo needle, because of legality issues I had to confirm that it wasn’t passed the expiration date and had been sterilized. We were getting serious now. He aligned the stencil on my calf, wet it down, and peeled it off. It was perfect. As I got comfortable on the bench, it was time to begin.
As I am lying face down, I rested my head on my crossed arms for comfort. The party had already started and there were people everywhere. With conversation rising and music playing, I tried to observe my surroundings with only my ears. As loud as it was, I felt as if I couldn’t hear a thing. My thoughts echoed through my mind and all I could think of was my mom and how cool this experience already was. Then Erik asked, “Are you ready to start?” without hesitation I replied “yes.” He turned the gun on; the buzzing sound was almost mesmerizing. I felt the tattoo needle hit my skin and it wasn’t what I imagined. It felt sharp like a sting, as if somebody was poking me with tweezers, but it didn’t hurt. My friend was sitting next to me and we began to talk. I kept trying to describe how it felt, but to be honest it didn’t feel like a lot. I don’t know if it was my excitement or the distractions going on internally and externally but it’s as if I didn’t feel a thing. In between him tattooing he would have to wipe away excess ink with what they call “green soap”. It was so cold, a very refreshing feeling. I couldn’t stop thinking about how happy I was that I could do this for my mother. I wished more than anything I could share this moment with her, but having my fiancé and dear friends of mine around was more than enough. The sound of the crowd kept coming and going through my mind and various people would surround me to talk and investigate what was going on. At one point I almost fell asleep. There was an overwhelming feeling of pride and serenity. I knew this is exactly what I wanted.
I honestly couldn’t give an exact time frame, but what felt like an hour and a half later Erik looked up and said to me “you’re done, you did great!” He was so encouraging the whole time that when I heard those words come out of his mouth I felt nothing but accomplishment. I stepped down from the bench and looked into the mirror my friend was holding and was immediately breathless. It was beautiful. This representation of my mother permanently on my body was just what I needed to help me move on with the grieving process. This moment will be an experience I’ll never forget.