A little over a year ago, I did a crazy thing.
Well, I wasn’t alone. WE did a crazy thing.
The conversation went a little like this.
Mom: Your brother has an idea.
Me: Oh boy. What?
Mom: He wants us all to get coordinating family tattoos. Would you be on board with that?
Me: (without hesitation) Yeah, I’d do it.
Mom: You were supposed to me my out! I told him I’d only do it if you would do it, and I never thought you would do it!
So there we sat at the tattoo parlor on President’s Day weekend. We had batted around a number of design ideas and finally settled on the outlines of Michigan and Ohio, each of us using the configuration of our choice. My parents and brother chose to get Michigan with Ohio tucked inside. My sister-in-law and I chose to get Ohio with Michigan inside. My husband chose to stay home with the kids.
The experience of getting a tattoo was not my favorite, and in the past year, I certainly haven’t rushed back to get any more! I squeezed my mom’s hand as tightly as I could while tears sprang to my eyes. I love state outlines, but when a majority of the outline is a natural border along a lake or river…well, that takes longer! I would also like to point out that I was the only one of the five who included the Upper Peninsula…more lines! Yay! (That’s sarcasm, by the way.) But going together was a really cool experience. We definitely “bonded” that day, and my mom is still getting mileage out of the story of how the whole thing came about.
Besides being a family experience, my tattoo has taken on even more meaning for me. I chose to get Ohio with Michigan inside because, even though I was born in Michigan and I only spent about a third of my life in the Buckeye State, it’s my husband’s home state, and all four of our children were born there. It’s where I truly began my own life as an adult, moving there to attend graduate school in 2006. Both Ohio and Michigan will always have a very special place in my heart.
But Ohio and Michigan and the Great Lakes that surround them are the settings for my novel, so every time I see my tattoo, I think not just of my family and my own history, but also of this story that has consumed me for the past sixteen months. As the famous quote implies, the story has bled from my veins. And in a way, it’s a bit of a love song to the places where I grew up and came into my own.
It seems only fitting that they are now marked on my skin, forever a part of me.