I am a late bloomer when it comes to tattoos. I skipped the rebellious teenage stage and never thought of getting a cute ankle butterfly like many of the other girls in college. I got my first ink in my late twenties shortly after I moved to Denver. For whatever reason at that time I decided to mark the move west with a sun on my back, symbolizing the Colorado climate and a new sunnier phase of my life. There were no more tattoos for a good ten years.
In the last two years I have added three new permanent images to my body, much to the chagrin of my close family members. I can't explain exactly why I have been drawn to it. People will tell you that tattoos are addictive. Perhaps that is true. I have kept my ink simple and meaningful, an outward expression of what is inside. I have always been an open book. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve.
Two years ago I got an expensive tattoo while on a Vegas vacation to celebrate my best friend's fortieth birthday. It was a particularly meaningful tattoo, three birds on a branch for my three boys. My husband was not thrilled with the idea, but he attempted to be supportive and told me it was pretty.
A year later, this past August I got a bird on my right shoulder, one that was to represent strength, something I felt I needed as I turned 39 years old.
This past weekend was spent mostly alone in Madison. I was there for a wedding of an old and dear friend. I went solo, and stayed in my childhood home, `which was empty since my parents were out of town. This was a particularly unique weekend, I don't have much time for solitary peace and quiet and self reflection. It was good to have that time. It was needed. So much of my life is spent attending to others, in the noise and chaos of life. This weekend, I was alone in a city where I no longer know anyone. I could be whomever I wanted...if I only knew who that really was.
So on an empty Friday afternoon with no plans I found myself at Steve's tattoo parlor, with a needle in my arm. I won't lie and say it doesn't hurt. It hurt, but as I grow older I am finding that most things that are worthwhile in life do. This time I got a shooting star just underneath the bird on my right shoulder. A shooting star representing a moment in time as well as good luck. The moment? That weekend alone, or the this time in my life. This time which is both so beautiful and challenging, so simple yet complex. Years from now I will look back at 39 and remember my small boys clamoring for my attention,, giving me soft hugs and driving me mad with their demands. I will remember that even though I felt so old, I was still so young. Even though I was a grown up, I was still figuring out who I am.
The reactions to my new ink were as expected. Silence on the other end of the phone as I told my husband. Disapproving comments from other family members. For a brief moment I second guessed, but today I feel more sure than ever. This is my body. My life. My choice. I'm a work in progress, and a canvass for the life I create. I love my tattoos. Each one of them.