Mother’s Day: In the Flesh

Tattoos are big in construction school. On any given day, you can see the glossy sheen of antibacterial ointment on someone’s recently updated or aggravated skin art.

Weapons, ammo and the insignia of veterans’ organizations figure prominently upon classroom biceps. Bible verses, too. (It must take a certain dogged faith to endure the inking of “P-H-I-L-I-P-P-I-A-N-S” upon one’s fleshy parts.) 

One classmate has a tiny Coptic cross on his wrist, which he received as a child and doesn’t even remember. Another has big plans for a pair of interwoven dragons to represent the good and evil in his life.

I recently overheard a conversation that went like this: 

“Are most of your tattoos military?”

“Yes. What about you?”

“Mine are mostly personal.”

It’s hard to imagine a more agonizing decision than choosing the art that will permanently adorn one’s dermis. Back in college, I studied art history, worked as the school florist, and played club rugby, so I toyed with getting a tiny team mascot or collegiate crest to commemorate the experience.

I called my mom and floated the idea, in part just to torment her, since she objected to tattoos of any kind.

To her credit, Mom didn’t flinch. Instead, she said, “Mmmmmmm, ” and let the conversation peter out without the kind of controversy that might inadvertently move me toward a tattoo parlor just to assert my independence.

A couple days later, she called back with a follow-up thought. “It occurred to me what you should get for your tattoo,” she said. 

This was surprising. I was all ears. 

“Since you’re the school florist, you should get a tiny, delicate rosebud on your hip. That way, when you get old and have babies and gain lots of weight, you can watch it bloom.”

Twenty-five years later, I still do not have a tattoo. Well played, Mom. And happy Mother’s Day!

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