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Tattoos & Trees

True story:

About ten years ago (+\- five years) and yet another fifteen years prior to that.  This will make sense for you, (the readership in a few moments… hang in there..  I promise.  Trust me.

I traveled to Arizona for a visit with my grandparents, sister and mother.  It was time to find a full service, independent living, facility for my grandparents.

The three of us toured a few facilities each day until we found our ideal space for the distinguished Patriarch and Matriarch of my mothers’ side of the family.  It took a lot of convincing to get them to see it, much less than the actual move from their condo to a facility we chose.

It was nice.  They allowed my grandparents’ cats, furniture and even had it’s own kitchen.  The forms were signed.  Their condo was up for sale and I had to get back to Michigan.


Within a couple of months I got a call from my sister.  She wanted to get a Tigger tattoo and wanted my opinion.  I have a tattoo on my hip bone of Opus the Penguin.  I got it when I was seventeen, so in my sister’s mind I must remember the experience…. eh… I didn’t.  Seventeen and tattoos were common in my generation; remembering the details, not so much.

Opus the Penguin

I did my best to explain it to her, but jeez that was fifteen years ago.

After many months of looking she decided to bring the multitudes of Tigger to a top three.  In this process she had found a few other ideas that would be good on me and my mother.

She wanted all of us to get (at least one) matching tattoos.  I laughed and questioned her rationale.

“It would be a bonding experience.”

Uh- No.

Within the week I was getting pictures from my sister with a very noticeable Tigger tattoo on her calf.  She even showed it to our grandmother for review.  Apparently our grandmother approved and asked questions about it -the process, design, and pain.  She and my sister often did Tigger themed things, like this cake, for instance.

Tigger everywhere!

The holidays had me back in AZ later that year.  I laughed every time my sister brought up the “group tattoo idea”.  However, by then, my mom had agreed to do it. My sister must have been quite convincing.   They were going on and on about yin yang symbols, turtles, paw prints, etc.  I was still holding firm on my “No.”

I had underestimated my sister because the day after Christmas she admitted something…

She had a plan.

  • We all had to agree on the design and body location.
  • We had to find a clean and reputable establishment that was handicapped accessible.
  • We had to go into it with a “No Regrets” mentality.

I was still not in love with the idea or plan.  Besides, why did it have to be handicap accessible?  So I asked.

Wait for it….

My sister continued, “…Grandma wants to go too.  So we will just swing by her new nursing home, check her out for the day, let her go first with her tatt, get ours, and then grab something to eat, sign her back in to the nursing home without drawing attention to ourselves and Ta Dah.  No biggie!”

“We are NOT kidnapping Grandma, tattooing her in a handicap accessible (air quotes) tattoo parlor, having a late lunch and then sneaking her back in to her nursing home without anyone noticing ‘something different’ about Grandma.”

“Awwww c’mon.  She really wants whatever we’re having.”
“Are you crazy?!  No!  Soooo beyond no!  We could get in serious trouble for that.  Oh My Lord. (*sigh) Did you tell mom?”

“She liked it.”

Of course she did.

This dialogue continued back and forth for quite some time -months.


My sister stayed on this kick for awhile and is over it now (I think).  Our grandmother passed away within a few years -tattoo free.  My mother is still tattoo free.

Part of me wonders, did my grandmother have a seventeen year old self who always wanted a tattoo, like me? What would she have chosen at seventeen?

I don’t doubt that she entertained the idea then, or at my sister’s plan sixty years later.  I can only fathom what 1945 art was acceptable for her standards.  She was a nurse back then.  She had seen it all, and knew the human body quite well.  She would know where we could keep it hidden and respectable.

This past Autumn, my sister, mother and I were together again and I brought up the group tattoo idea.  We thought about it, tossed around some ideas and then got back to our independently busy lives;    somehow still remaining connected.

Maybe the next time we get the chance I can get us all to agree on a tree.  More specifically The Tree of Life.  It would be a Family Tree of Life!

“As above, so below”

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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