Let’s take a journey back in time, shall we? <Cue the fog machine!!>
The year is 1995. Bill Clinton is president. Seinfeld is still on TV (God I miss that show- Serenity Now!). I am a mere fetus at twenty years old. I wear a lot of flannel with jeans frayed at the hem and holes at the knees. And on my feet- some type of work boot. No, I am not moonlighting in the construction industry. Rather, I am a junior at a small liberal arts college in Texas and am considering a tattoo.
I really don’t know what made me think I was the type to get a tattoo. Did my work study program require me to work as a bouncer after hours? Did I have plans to join the merchant marines? Would my post-collegiate studies find me riding sidecar with a Hells Angel? Uh, no, no, and no. Perhaps the only explanation I need to give is that I was 20: a wee baby spreading my wings into adulthood. Whatever the reason, one evening, my friend Victoria and I arrived at a tattoo parlor on 6th Street in Austin and inked ourselves for life.
My poor parents, especially my mom, were devastated. How could their little girl have defiled herself in such a way? My mom warned me in anguished tones that I would regret it. With that special mix of arrogance and self-assurance only found in a college co-ed, I declared that I would love it forever.
Well, “forever” has come and gone. Since 1995, I’ve given birth twice. With each pregnancy, my much loved tattoo has expanded and shrunk and then, expanded and shrunk again. Rather than the small black sun that it started out as in 1995, it has taken on a more amoeba-like quality. And frankly, I am no longer that twenty year old gal who thought I’d grow up to be some sort of bohemian free-spirit. I drive a minivan for God’s sake. I am a slave to my children and am called “Ma’am” by kids who are now themselves in their 20s. I knew it was time to get it removed when, this past year, Chris, who for many years told me that he liked the tattoo, responded with radio silence when I asked him what he thought of it now. All I heard was crickets.
So, off I go to the plastic surgeon for a consultation. My decision was once again affirmed when the doctor examined it and asked, “Hmmmm…what exactly is this?” Yup- let’s laser this puppy off. When I told my mother I was going to have it removed, the phone practically vibrated with her exultation and vindication. Almost twenty years later and she finally had her grand “I TOLD YOU SO!” I can’t imagine how satisfying that must have been as a parent. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: I am going to get my tattoo removed.
My Loving Mother: YOU ARE?!!! (Voice filled with glee, excitement and most of all, victory!) When?
Me: Well, it will probably take several visits to the doctor.
My Mom: How many?
Me: About five to ten.
My Mom: (Laughing like a hyena) Five to ten?!! How much does that cost?
Me: (In an ever smaller and smaller voice) $200 each time.
My Mom: (Practically rolling on the floor in hysterics) $200 EACH TIME!?!! HA HA HA HA HA! And how much did it cost you when you got it?
Me: (Whispering) Um, $75.
My Mom: $75?! Five to ten visits??! $200 each time?! HA HA HA HA HA….
At this point in the conversation, I quietly hung up. I don’t think she even noticed, so enraptured was she in her triumph. My mom’s jubilation was somewhat tempered by the fact that after the first treatment, I had a rare allergic reaction to the dye breaking up in my body. I had hives covering my lower back and could do nothing but whimper in agony. The laser, although described as merely “uncomfortable” by my doctor, basically felt like a blowtorch against my skin and the resulting blister was painful and ugly to behold. It took about 5 weeks to heal and a week later, I was up for another treatment. My second treatment was no less traumatic and Chris and even my somewhat repentant mom suggested that I might have been better off leaving my poor little amoeba in tact.
But ever the consummate professional (mother) that I am, I have turned this disaster into a teachable moment for my children. Each time I have to change the bandage and administer ointment to my lower back, I have Sarah come and watch. She is horrified and has sworn never to desecrate her own body in such a manner. So great is her worry for me that she has, in fact, asked her class and teacher during their morning meeting to pray for “My mom and her tattoo because it is really infected.” Twice. So dutifully, her kindergarten classmates and teacher have beseeched the Lord to heal me swiftly. I am mortified.
My only regret is that I didn’t wait till Katie was old enough to understand what I was doing so that she too could learn from her mother’s mistakes. She is my little hellion and more likely of my two girls to pierce body parts and tattoo skin. But I think she understands some of what is going on. The other day, she took my feather duster, had me lift my shirt and dusted my lower back because, “Mama dirty there.”