Last week I got a tattoo.
Wait, Grandma, don’t stop reading!
I’m still your sweet granddaughter – the same girl you once hugged and whispered in her ear, “I love you just as much as all my other grandchildren.”
Special words spoken by a true (always fair) Midwest grandma.
I hope you’ll still love me a fair amount.
If not, I’ll have to start divulging secrets about my cousins and I know you don’t want to hear that one of them lived with their husband before they got married.
Wait. That was also me.
I never thought I’d get another tattoo. (I got one on my foot at nineteen, after climbing a mountain with some of my close friends.) But so much has changed in the last three years that it’s hard to say I’d “never” do anything anymore.
I also never thought I’d never marry a Buddhist but here I am, still trying to explain to my family why we had a gong at our wedding.
In the last few months, my thoughts on getting a tattoo turned from “never again” to “maybe someday” to “I need something permanent on my body immediately.”
My parents tried to talk me out of it. My mom sent me articles and horrifying photos of poorly done tattoos I can never un-see (thanks, Mom) but I was undeterred.
I didn’t understand what had come over me. Why the sudden interest? I just knew I wanted one.
I researched and researched until I found the artist I loved and on the day of my appointment, I came armed with reference photos and a very clear idea. After looking at the images, my tattoo artist drew something so quickly and so lovely that before I knew it, I was in the chair feeling a needle scrape along my arm as we chatted about summer plans.
Twenty minutes later it was over.
I had something on my body I could never take off.
Driving home, I looked down at my arm – at the delicate little laurel wreath made up of wheat and flowers and plants from the farm where I grew up.
It wasn’t until that moment I realized why I’d done it.
My little tattoo was like a marker for this time in my life. A little flag planted in the ground of my thirty-third year. The year I accomplished a dream I’d been working toward for almost a decade. The year I learned what lengths I was willing to go to start a family. The year I learned I was stronger than I thought I was.
Life moves so quickly, in a blurry flash of change that feels impossible to appreciate before it slips through your fingers. I wanted to capture this moment in a little piece of art on my skin – a permanent reminder of a time in my life when I did something for which I was proud. When I grew and changed and didn’t give up.
And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll look down at this little section of my arm and whisper, “I love you just as much as all my other tattoos.”
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.
Photo by Jason Elias.