I have five tattoos.
Five. All different, and all kind of the same. Each is mine, holding meaning and promise. Every now and again someone will ask me if I’m getting a new one, and the answer is usually filled with uncertainty. Maybe, maybe not, probably not, possibly. I think my poor mother will crucify me should I walk through her door with another one. (She’s already threatened to disown me.) Sometimes, I’d really like to get another one but right now, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got – in more ways than one!
I got my first tattoo when I was 18, in the summer between my high school graduation and my first day in university. I drew it out myself: a treble clef, eighth note and music staff for my love of music, and three little stars – blue, pink and yellow signifying my past present and future. It covers the top of my foot and I was fiercly proud of it. I felt that my foot was the perfect spot – I could easily hide or display it, a good trait for a tattoo when you expected to be in the public eye. It is big and my mother nearly threw up her lunch when she saw it, lamenting over and over that she “thought it would be smaller”. I planned this tattoo for months, changing the design or placement, but eventually settling on what I have. Seven years later, I love it just as much as I did that first day.
My second tattoo came just a year later, six butterflies down my spine – my own design again. One for each musical accomplishment I head dear to my
heart, from musicals in high school to singing on “real” stages. I hid it for two weeks from my Mom, until the day I forgot to let my hair down and she spotted it nestled between my shoulder blades. “One day, you’ll get married in a beautiful gown and you’ll have that on your back!” It’s true. I did get married in a beautiful gown with it on my back and I’d be willing to bet no one noticed it. It was an impulsive tattoo, and I had decided on it just the day before. I’ve forgotten about it a million times only to be surprised by it when I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror. In spite of my ability to forget it being there, I always smile when I see it. I love it, too.
My third tattoo was a celebration of F: a birth dove carrying an olive branch, with the words Mo Stoirin (translation: My Treasure), in Irish Gaelic. He was six months old at the time, and I was so excited it was unbelievable. I put my own twist on this image, and wrote out the script by hand. It took almost two hours, and it was a mix between tender and ticklish. It’s my biggest tattoo by far, set above my left hip, nestled among my stretch marks. My Mom hated it, naturally, but came to eventually say that it was “pretty” and since it too is usually covered, she’s managed to cope. My uncle called me crazy for having another, but it is my favourite of all. No matter where I am, I will always have my baby on my hip.
The forth was extra special for me, as I got inked with my baby brother – my half-brother, adopted into the same home as I. It was done just a month before my wedding. We got co-ordinating tattoos, MACINNIS across his shoulder blades and nicaonghais along my ribcage – the Scot’s Gaelic feminine MacInnis (Mac – son of/ Nic – daughter of). I will never change my surname. I may not biologically be a MacInnis, but I am as much a MacInnis as anyone else in the family. Both my parents were present for these tattoos, both acting disgusted but secretly pleased that their adopted children take the pride we do in our last name.
My fifth tattoo is for no one but myself. Alis Volat Propriis – she flies with her own wings. My motto, my reminder that I can do this myself. There is little hiding of this tattoo – set right on my arm, just above my elbow. Only two people in the world have expressed any dislike for it – you guessed it – my parents. Strangers, friends and co-workers have told me they love it for the placement and the dainty font. It was a bold move for me – it means long sleeves in a conservative work place and a tattoo on my arm when I’m a granny. If I ever re-marry, I’ll have TWO tattoos visible – what ever will my mother do? I see this tattoo 2.7 million times a day, and I love it a little more every time.
I like what a lot of people don’t like about tattoos. They are permanent: always with you. No matter how tough my day is, I can look down and be reminded that I fly with my own wings and make my own happiness. I am labeled with the name of my family. I will always have my son on my hip, my passion on my foot and my accomplishments on my shoulders. I love that no one else has these five tattoos: they are mine.