A Tattoo for Thanksgiving
You want heartwarming, we've got heartwarming. My daughter and I have agreed to get matching tattoos.
I should say at the outset that I am not a tattoo person. I am a fairly staid middle-aged lapsed Episcopalian novelist and high-school English teacher. So much for Maine eccentricity. My daughter Callie is nineteen and, until the day before Thanksgiving, innocent of skin embellishment.
Now Liz, my ex and my daughter's mom, is a tattoo person. And I mean, big-time. She's got elaborate custom inkwork all over her arms and legs, to the extent that during her rare public appearances in skimpy clothing she tends to strike the casual observer as a psycho biker chick who would rip your throat out if you looked at her cross-eyed. This is a don't-judge-a-book thing, however. Callie's mom is a fairly staid middle-aged lapsed Catholic novelist, a pillar of her small-town Maine community, with a dozen literary awards to her credit and a compulsively workaholic lifestyle, who just happens to look like a psycho biker chick. This is the mother of my children and I love her dearly, but I do try never to look at her cross-eyed.
But as to this tattoo. It's a book thing, actually. I have blogged before about the world's greatest surfing novel, ever, which is called Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn. I spend many waking hours trying to turn people on to this novel, ordinarily with scant success, but for mysterious reasons of genetics, alchemy, or the phase of the moon, my daughter Callie recently read it and loved it.
I must tell you now that my daughter is not a book person. This is perhaps understandable and, indeed, a blessing, inasmuch as this poor young woman has witnessed firsthand the bathos and degradation of the literary lifestyle. She will consent to open a book now and again if importuned to do so by a cranky professor, but only if the work in question is not suitably covered by SparkNotes. Nonetheless she read this novel, Tapping the Source, cover to cover over the course of a couple of nights, which is the only way to read it, and she was very much taken by the story, as is every right-thinking person. And she decided to get this tattoo.
The design is clearly described in the text of the book, which I cannot quote because I keep giving away all my copies as rapidly as I obtain them. It is the logo of a fictional surf shop in Huntington Beach, California. It consists of a wave within a circle. The crest of the wave is turning into flame. The motto "Tapping the Source," which turns out to be a terrible double entendre, is inscribed within.
Now it develops that in coastal Maine it is no problem to obtain a beautiful, artistically rendered, custom-designed tattoo. It's as easy as running into an award-winning novelist at the grocery store. Happens every day. Folks around here are partial to an establishment in Rockland — that artsy, semi-gentrified but still refreshingly funky little Mecca of idiosyncrasy just south of arteriosclerotic Camden — called Atlantic Studios. My daughter and I arranged to meet there at 4 o'clock on the rainy afternoon before Thanksgiving.
Callie came heavy, backed by the three lovely but scowling Carroll sisters. I came alone, armed only with serious misgivings. The tattoo artist was named Mark. He had rendered a visually arresting sketch based on Callie's penciled design. He explained how the colors would work. He did not seem an overly scary person. He seemed, if anything, like another hardworking artist in Rockland. Only not the sort of artist you would want to look at cross-eyed.
Mark only had time for one tattoo that day. Callie got it on her shoulder. It's maybe three-and-a-half inches around and looks terrific. It cost $140. My appointment is at 4:30 this afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving. I am moderately terrified, but I am going into this with my eyes open in a spirit of fatherly adventure.
The great thing — one of the great things — about having children is that every day is a new thing, a step into unmapped terrain. You take it and you hope for the best. And the best is really pretty awesome.