I got my first tattoo nine months after my mother's death.
I had planned to get it sooner, but for one reason or another, didn't commit to the idea until just before my 31st birthday.
I remember the details of that day. These were the times before internet access, and I had prepared by calling tattoo parlors to check on their weekday hours. My husband worked evenings and I worked weekends, so I needed to get in before our daughter finished mothers' day out at one-thirty p.m. There was only one tattoo parlor in the area that opened before noon--our only choice.
My plan was to get a claddagh symbol in honor of my deceased Irish-American mother, but the artist said it would have to be at least four inches in diameter to maintain clarity over the years--and that was far bigger than what I had in mind. My husband asked if I wanted to leave and come back, but I was bound and determined to walk out of that parlor with a tattoo. I chose a four-leaf clover from the images pinned to the wall, and within thirty minutes, it was done.
Our daughter had told her preschool teacher what mommy was doing that morning, and several of the teachers wanted a peek at my new ink. They liked it; my daughter, not so much. She kept asking if I could wash it off!
Eight years later, I decided I needed another tattoo for my 39th birthday, since threes figure heavily in my history. This time, I took one of my best friends, and she sat by my side in the back room of a repurposed 40's house near campus while I sat with my leg in another tattoo artist's lap. This time, the Celtic symbol was a bit more sophisticated--a triquetra knot, with a circle entwined in the loops. The shape has many interpretations: the Holy Trinity, maiden-mother-crone, even as a symbol for Pisces, my birth sign. It's my favorite so far.
Tonight, I visited yet another tattoo parlor, to begin the process of getting my third, and last, inking. I've asked for the design to incorporate an owl, a book, and the number fifty-one--the age I'll attain next March, the age of my mother at her passing.
I want it placed in a location that I can glance at easily, a daily reminder of that invisible line drawn in the sands of my life's hourglass; a circle that lasts but a moment on the day of my fifty-first birthday, erased as the grains of sand continue to fall, expanding my experience past that arbitrary boundary.