Friday, January 9, 2009

Tattoos, Tiger Stripes, Band-aids, and Little White Boots

I love tattoos. I have none. I want one. I am afraid.

My oldest daughter, E, recently got a tattoo to commemorate the life of her oldest brother.

My son was buried in a beautiful old cemetery surrounded by gates of wrought iron and walls made of a stone native to this area and quarried locally. There are paths throughout the cemetery that wind around small hills and gnarled trees. DJ is buried in a beautiful place underneath a Linden tree with a row of tall pines as a backdrop. On the day he was buried E took some of the leaves from the Linden tree to design her tattoo from. I love the design so much that I thought I’d post a picture of it here.

This isn’t E’s first tattoo. I’m not sure how many she has now – but I can recall two others. Her first tattoo is one of Tinkerbelle on her hip. She refers to it as her “I’m eighteen and I can do whatever I want now” tattoo. She asked a friend “What should I get for a tattoo?” and friend said “Oh! How about Tinkerbelle?” and so E said “OK.” The other tattoo that I recall is one she designed herself to represent me and her. This one is on the back of her neck. I love this daughter of mine fiercely.

My maternal great-great grandmother came to America when she was a young bride. She came from Scotland with her brothers, her husband, and her baby. Her brothers were carpenters and fine wood-workers. I have all of the hand planes and wood working tools they brought with them from Scotland.

The tools have the name MacRae stamped on each one – although sometimes the name is spelled McCrae.

Here is the MacRae Crest:

My brother, T, and my youngest sister, W, wanted everyone in our family to get a tattoo of the MacRae crest. My mom would never get one. My sister C (she who eats leaves) wouldn’t either. Although I’m game – as I mentioned earlier I’m also afraid. W went and got one first three years ago – she was 41. It was supposed to be a butt crack tattoo but the artist who did it was having so much fun with the design that it just unfolded across her back.

My brother T got one next. His is on the outside of one of his calves. It’s much simpler – more like the crest pictured first.

I want to get one. I really do. Once I bought E a Henna tattoo kit and she drew a spray of forget-me-nots (my favorite flower) across the top of my foot! I loved looking at it every single day – and loved that she did it. I was very sad when it faded away.

My youngest daughter, M, has also shown a strong interest in body art. Ever since she was old enough to hold a pen – and know what to do with it – she has drawn all over her body. She would sneak my red marker grading pens into bed with her at night. When I’d wake her in the morning she would be covered in red stripes. “I’m a tiger, Mama!” she would say. This was not a onetime occurrence. She routinely covered her arms, legs, tummy, neck, and even her cheeks, forehead and nose with red stripes. When she became a more sophisticated artist (as in able to draw circles too) she moved away from stripes (I was sad to see the tiger go) to all kinds of designs all over her body. Then there were the shoes. M started wearing her shoes on the opposite feet as soon as she was old enough to put them on herself. So from the time she was a wee tot until she was about 5 she wore her shoes this way. I figured, since she was so persistent about this, she must know something I don’t. I let her do it. What really amused me about this was the number of people who would say to me “do you realize that she is wearing her shoes on the opposite feet?”

Day Care, however, never even batted an eye at M’s antics. They were used to this stuff from my kids by now. Her brother (my youngest son), A, had already prepped the Day Care center well. Only his body art took the form of multi-media. His favorite media was band-aids. It started one morning when he was 3 and he told me he had a stomach ache as we were leaving for Day Care. In trying to deduce whether the complaint was real or not I asked him if a band-aid would make it better. He said “yes Mama, I think it would,” so we put a blue band-aid on his stomach. Over the next few weeks this grew into needing several band-aids on his stomach to one day showing up at Day Care with a band-aid on his forehead, one on each cheek, and one on his chin. He needed band-aids for about 6 months. I figured if it gave him comfort and got us all out the door in the morning then it was worth it. He also developed a love for thin knitted gloves. He would wear them to Day Care every day. Some days he really liked to mix it up – he would wear two different gloves. Then we went through a whole year of various costumes. I did have to draw the line at wearing the underpants on the outside of his pants though. So I made a deal with him. He could do this as long as he only did it at home.

It will be interesting to see how each of my two youngest children’s early form of body art will be expressed when they are adults. Even though E has tattoos as an adult, she didn’t draw all over herself as a child. When she was small she would become very attached to things she wore. She loved to wear the same ::fill in the blank:: every single day. Her first article of obsession was her little white snow boots. Every single day the winter she was two she wore her white snow boots. When the summer came she started wearing her tiger bathing suit – and the little white snow boots. Every single day she put on her tiger bathing suit. Every single day I let her. When the bathing suit became too small for her she slept with it.

I was also very much like this as a child. When I was in sixth grade I took a shirt of my mother’s – a faded blue cotton oxford shirt that was very soft from many washings – and paired it with a dark blue jumper. I wore this outfit every day for weeks. When I was finally made aware of this fashion faux pas by my peers I cut back to wearing it every other day. Then I started wearing the shirt to bed every night. Another time it was a pair of black leotards. I wore them every day and slept in them every night. I actually don’t remember when I stopped wearing them – I think my mother must have stripped them off me some night while I was sleeping and burned them. To this day I wear something until I wear it out. I use the same purse until it falls apart. I wear clothes, coats, etc. until they are thread bare. Not because I’m frugal or anything. Just because when I get something I love – it just makes me happy to wear it. I will buy the same style of shoe again when the first wears out simply because I love it so much. I do not get tired of things I love.

The permanence of tattoos does not bother me. When I finally build up the courage to get one, I will get three. A Linden leaf like E’s, a spray of forget-me-nots, and the MacRae crest. Maybe I’ll even throw in a band-aid and a couple of tiger stripes.


  1. Oh I love this post. Your daughter's tattoo is gorgeous, and the kid stories are all so delightful. I'm so very sorry for the loss of your oldest son.

    I lost my best friend, Kevin, who was like the brother I never had, in 1995. He was 33. My tattoo for Kevy is on my right thigh.

  2. Oh Jen - Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss too. What is your tattoo for Kevin?

  3. Sorry for a late response (I've not been online much this week, bad winter!), my tattoo for Kevy is one of the sorts that is universally mocked so I don't like to describe it in big public spaces. But on the chance we ever meet offline I will show you. :)

  4. Hi Jen:

    Now I'm really curious! I continue to be amazed at the insensitivity of others - to mock something that has meaning to another.

    Let me know if you ever decide to travel East. Maybe I'll even have a few tattoos of my own by then!

    On a different note - I'm new to blogging and I'm really enjoying it. I am surprised, however, about the amount of time it takes me to write a posting. I've been working off and on this past week on my next posting and hope to have it done by Monday.