Ten years ago, my daughter, Michelle, and I drove to CA for a three-day visit with my son who was attending college in the city of Orange. After checking into our hotel the three of us headed to Venice Beach. I enjoyed the art graffiti wall of Starry Starry Night and watched people roller blade, play sand volleyball, and walk their dogs. The usual beach scene. We wandered through the outdoor markets, checking out hemp products, incense, long skirts, and tie dye t shirts. As we turned onto a side street, my son, Michael, led us into his favorite tattoo parlor.
I looked nonchalantly at butterflies, fairies and lady bugs in soft hues while Mike and his older sister rifled through pages of tribal art. We admired the delicate work and chatted up the tattoo artists. Then the taunts began. “Come on mom, let’s get you a tattoo.” “No, it doesn’t hurt.” “Let’s find something we all three like.”
I am still unclear how it happened but one of us (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me) said, “I know; let’s get a family tattoo.” The two of them picked out a black filigree tribal design with a purple stone in the center. It wasn’t what I had in mind, but I admitted it was pretty. Suddenly the prospect of binding our lives together with a tattoo took over, like gang mentality.
Mike took the chair up front, Mish in the center and me at the back nervously biting my fingernails and wondering what I was doing. Had I wanted a tattoo, I’d have chosen a flower on some area of my body where it couldn’t be seen. But here I sat with my right ankle up in the air and some woman poking ink-filled needles into my skin. She knew just how much pain I could handle, would stop and let me rest and begin again.
Meanwhile behind me Michelle and Mike lay face down as the art work appeared on the back of her neck and the back of his left thigh. An hour later and three hundred dollars on my credit card, we walked out in a bit of pain and wandered into Santa Monica. It took awhile to locate a drug store where we bought gauze, tape, and ointment. For the next three days of our vacation we had to stay out of the water, out of the sun, and protect the skin from infection which meant wearing large ugly white bandages over our various appendages. Did none of us have the foresight to wait until our last day? No.
We returned to our hotel room and I stood in the center of the room in shock. There it was like a large spider climbing around the inside of my right ankle. I wanted to cry. And then I laughed. We sat in the middle of the bed and took a photo of the three of us: my ankle, Mike’s thigh, Michelle’s neck. The Wesala tattoo. We’d never be lost.
On our last day I took one of my favorite photos – it still sits on my book shelves. The two of them, sitting side-by-side, near the pool inside a yellow and white striped cabana chaise. Mish has her head leaning on Mike’s shoulder and they look so happy. Brother and sister, so bonded, so close. One sunny day out of hundreds we’ve shared. I want to always remember them in that pose, at that moment when everything seemed right with the world.