Mother-Daughter Bonding

This is two weeks in a row that I’m suffering with a first-world problem. This week it’s pain. Self-inflicted pain. Inky, spectacular pain, but pain, nonetheless.

I got a new tattoo this weekend. And my left calf hurts like a bitch!

In fact, this was not just a tattoo, it was an event. The idea was hatched many months ago, when my daughter was in town for a visit and we were discussing tats with our friends Sheila and Kristi, who had come over for dinner.

Celeste mentioned the idea of a mother/daughter tattoo. We tossed around some ideas. Nothing frou-frou, of course. I’m not a frou-frou kind of girl and neither is my daughter. We envision ourselves as far too wild-eyed and bad ass to get anything girly or cutesy. It wouldn’t suit us.

I’m not sure which of us came up with the idea. Maybe me, maybe Celeste; sometimes we feed off of each other in brainstorming sessions. She’s been pretty inventive when it comes to Foo Fighter-related ideas that I hope to one day put into play when I get my dream job. But regardless of whose idea it was, it was pretty fucking brilliant.

We were going to share a tree.

“We need to do an apple tree. All my apples will be in the tree, but on yours, there should be one apple on the ground next to it. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!” I said.

We all agreed it was an excellent mother/daughter tattoo design. Soon after, Celeste started looking at other tattoos and drawings in an attempt to find some inspiration to share with our favorite ink guy, Joe Haasch.

Time passed, Celeste hunted for pictures and ideas, and sometime late this past summer, she made an appointment for us with Joe. As this was to be her birthday present, she scheduled Ink Day for the Sunday before her birthday, which was yesterday, btw. Our design still wasn’t completely hatched, but we would figure it out when we arrived for our appointment.

Ink Day turned out to be a glorious, warm, November day. We headed east for our adventure, to Elm Street Tattoo, the shop where Joe works. Tattoo artists are like hair stylists; they tend to move from shop to shop with some regularity. When we first found Joe, about seven years ago, he worked here in Fort Worth, but last year, he made the move to Dallas. I’m not a huge fan of Big D. The traffic there is always horrendous so I usually try to stay on my side of the Trinity River, but I will venture to the big city if there’s something important to do. An appointment with Joe is important.

When we arrived, we exchanged hugs and I presented Joe with a pan of Pecan Pie Bars, his favorite. And yes, of course I bake for my tat guy! When you find a good artist for something as serious as committing permanent ink to your skin, you want him to be happy and well-fed. I’m a Jewish Mother. It’s what I do. Besides, after the Frank Turner brownie fiasco, it was nice to take a pan of baked goods to Dallas and know somebody actually ate them.

We revisited our design ideas, but still hadn’t determined the best plan for our ‘shared’ tat. We knew we were going to put our tattoos on our calves, but which design would work best? Should we each have a little apple tree, or should we have one single apple tree, with the design cut in two, with half on my leg and half on Celeste’s?

Joe had an idea. He would draw one tree, and both of us would have the same design, but he would align them in such a way that if we stood side by side, with our two legs touching, it would look like one single tree. The only difference in the two tats? There would be one lone apple on the ground, and only on Celeste’s leg. We agreed that this sounded like a plan, and Joe sat down for a few minutes to come up with a drawing. Which we both loved.

It took several tries to get the stencils lined up properly on our two legs, but at last we were ready to go. Celeste hadn’t been tattooed in several years, so she was anxious to go first. She was on the table nearly two hours, while I passed the time working on homework and playing Words with Friends. Finally it was my turn under the needle.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance, especially when it comes to ink, but this time around was tough. I was fidgety and I had a hard time getting comfortable on the table. Every nerve ending in my body seemed to have relocated to my left calf. But the ends would justify the means. Celeste’s tat looked wonderful, and I knew mine would too.

And of course, it does. And just as with every tattoo I’ve ever gotten, it turned out to be much bigger and more elaborate than I expected it to be. I guess that’s in keeping with my first tattoo experience. Go big or go home.

You know you are a serious ink junkie when you go in for a new tattoo, but can’t leave the shop without talking with your tattoo artist about your idea for the next design. Celeste and Joe discussed a second partial sleeve for her, and I showed him some artwork I’d had drawn for a Foo Fighters backpiece I want to do. I’m determined to have some ink to honor “Times Like These.” Hopefully by the spring, I’ll be ready to go, but if not, it will be my gift to myself next December when I finish grad school.

The entire process took nearly seven hours, and we didn’t get home until nearly ten o’clock. Monday morning would show up before we knew it, which meant back to work for me, and back to the airport and a flight home for Celeste. But we were absolutely giddy over our new ink, and the very unique bond our shared tattoos had given us. Not to mention the experience itself. Misery really does love company.

We have commiserated by text message for the past few days.

Celeste: How bad does your leg hurt?
Me: Like a stinging, throbbing motherfucker!
Celeste: OK good, it’s not just me.

But this is all part of the deal with tattoos. Ink veterans that we are, we have followed our after-care regimen diligently. In a few more days the soreness will be gone, and the itching will begin, a sign that the ‘ugly duckling’ phase has begun. Just like a sunburn, the tattoo will begin to peel. I will slather on unscented moisturizer and resist the urge to scratch for another seven to ten days.

Two weeks from now, our tattoos will be healed. And we will only notice them when we stop to admire how lovely they are. And we will admire them. Frequently, and with much satisfaction.

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