So, how old is too old to get your first tattoo? I am so far unmarked, except for scars, which all come with stories interesting only to me. When most of my friends were getting tattoos at the appropriate ages of their early twenties, I was applying eye liner to my daughters' faces to draw on cat whiskers. Getting a tattoo never occurred to me, until I went back to work with people my own age and younger, and realized how many things I'd missed during my twenties, tattoos high on the list among them.
But, what should I get? This took some thought, and it was only last week that I texted my friend Justin (he's very tattooed) that I finally had it, something I could wear and not regret ten years from now. What I wanted was a small, white bird, flying up my back into a sky of skin that stretched up high... Like my scars, this tattoo would have a story.
When my father died, my friend and former teacher Ruth Michaud paraphrased an old Bess Streeter Aldrich poem into a card. She wrote: "Rough ways and stony ways, I think it was he trod, But now all I see, Is a white bird flying, Flying high, Flying up to God." I can quote her version by heart, have written it into sympathy cards I have given. I love that poem, I love the friend who wrote it for me, and I loved my father. That's what I would mark onto myself, but once I decided on the idea for this tattoo, I realized how unnecessary it was. No one could see a tattoo on my back unless I chose to show it to them. And no one would know how deeply scarred into me are loves I own and those I've lost, unless I share the stories, which I already kind of did. The book I wrote and still hope to publish is all about my dad, and losing him.
I don't need a tattoo, not really. Some things are marked more deeply than with ink, and matter more.