“We should get a tattoo, Mom.”
I laughed. I knew it was just my younger daughter, Sarah’s way of getting herself a tattoo—to go along with her nose ring, and six ear piercings. She didn’t really want me to get one. Did she?
“Truth!” My oldest, more conservative daughter, Elle, chimed in. “We should all go.” What? Home from college just five minutes, maybe she was bored. I heard tattoos really hurt and she hates pain, like I do.
I glared at my two daughters, now 17 and 19. They can read my mind. I knew it! There was something more to carrying them around for nine months. We were still connected in mysterious ways, and somehow my daughters had figured out I have been thinking about getting a tattoo—for years. But I was not sure if I was really ready. I needed to distract them. I need time to think. “Don’t you guys have some homework or something?”
At their eye rolling, I exited the room. I needed to talk this over with my best friends, Ben and Jerry. Since my daughters had become teenagers, they had always helped me make decisions. As I dug into the carton of Chunky Monkey, I thought about it. What began as an embryonic idea, a planting imbedded into the back corners of my mind, seemed to take on momentum after hearing a news report that Barack Obama had threatened his daughters. It seemed our president at the time had told his daughters that if either of them got a tattoo, he would get the same one in the same place.
Elle walked into kitchen. “Mom, we should really do this. Let’s get a tattoo.” I laughed out loud, the kind of fake laugh that is way too loud to be real. “What mom would get a tattoo with her daughters? I mean who does that?”
Walking in the place, I realized how I had been fooled all those years by movies showing seedy tattoo parlors, with drunken people holding our their arms for a rose, their college mascot or the latest buddhist mantra. Maybe, those places are still around, but not in suburban New Jersey. The nice waiting room held clean, unstained Jennifer Convertible-looking couches with tattoo artwork lining the walls. Funny, I don’t hear anyone screaming out in pain. That must be a good sign.
As I began filling out the waiver, I admit, I wanted to bolt. I was scared. But like childbirth, I knew the pain would be worth it, in the end.
Truth is, when my daughters had first mentioned it a year ago, I had already been toying with the idea. Like a baby within our womb, it took months for the idea it to evolve, change, grow. I hemmed and hawed, and each time my daughter came home from college break, she would suggest we go.I came up with more excuses than a teen for not cleaning her room.
“I can’t, I have to go shopping at the mall today.”
“Mom, you hate shopping; you have an IV drip of Amazon Prime.” I looked at my arm. She knows me so well. I was left no choice but to revert to the old mom line. “I cannot go today, because I am the parent and I said so.” My 19-year-old daughter cocked her head at me like our yellow lab,“Really, Mom?”
OK! I was chicken. Gone were my own teen moments of throwing caution to the wind and hopping into the back of a car with a group of boys from the next town over or hang gliding down off a cliff. Nope, I was a mom, and it seemed the last thing I did that was daring was to wait until I was four centimeters before screaming at the top of my lungs for an epidural, threatening my husband’s life. What is it about having kids that takes away our need for daring activities? Oh, it must be that I am responsible for another human being thing.
Like my husband who asked me to marry him at 14 years old, my girls didn’t give up, and eventually, I gave in. I don’t do anything I really don’t want to do; sometimes I just drag my feet. This time, I dragged them all the way to the tattoo parlor (do they still call it that? Probably not.).
The three of us walked into the small room together. We showed the tattoo artist the picture of the small footprint, we were to get. It was a memory, an imprint to be forever inked into our bodies, as a tribute to their brother, my son, born still 13 years ago. If there were words to go along with the picture, it would have said, “There are no footprints too small, to leave a mark on our hearts.”
The tattoo artist didn’t give us a second glance. I guess we were not the first mother/daughter tattoo group to come into his office. Or maybe, he was more like my gynecologist than I thought. Seeing it all but pretending like it is all normal, part of the job description. Besides, he is a professional—and professionals don’t let on if they think you are a bit silly to be worried about getting a little footprint, taking all of five minutes.
When it was my turn, I laid down on the table. I squirmed. I gritted my teeth. I prayed it would be over soon. “Ma’am, you cannot move when I actually begin.” I nodded, quietly saying the Lord’s prayer, even though I was Jewish. How do I even know this? God does work in mysterious ways. Ouch! OK, I admit. Pain was not the word. It freakin hurt! All those people who say tattoos are addicting? I don’t get it. This was my first, and my last.
I wish I could tell you I had thought about my son the whole time. Tears did fall later that night in the safety of my own bed. It was for my son, how I never got to kiss his feet for real, but even more so for how amazing my daughters were for wanting to share this with me. They had been young, three and five years old, when Griffen passed before he could live with us. But they could feel the emptiness both upon my heart and our home. It was the most incredible act the three of us could do together, one that would bond the four of us together, forever.
God really does work in mysterious ways.