My first tattoo.
Yesterday I got my first tattoo. I have thought about getting a tattoo for years but a few things have always held me back. Having three boys, I’ve always felt it’s important to set a good example. At least I’ve tried to set a good example and hoped for the best. Also, sitting in the back of a sweaty yoga studio and seeing all those tattoos makes you think twice before joining the pack. Initially, I thought an Om sign in Sanskrit would be nice, and I’ve had other ideas over the years, but nothing really stuck as the right image.
The day after my father’s 88th birthday, May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day) he passed away. He had been declining for several years, and as a family we did our best to help. My brothers and I would fly from Seattle, Boston and Switzerland to take care of him, so that my mom had some much needed relief. As it happened, on my week to be there I was by his side when he passed. No matter how prepared you think you are it still hits you like a baseball bat upside the head. But I am sincerely grateful that I was there. We held a memorial service in July to celebrate his life, which was really lovely. To honor him we planted a Ginkgo tree in the yard of the house my parents have had for over 50 years. We chose this because the ginkgo tree—or the word ginkgo—has a special meaning to our family.
On the Sundays when he wasn’t off skiing, my dad loved to make pancakes for us. My mom would make the batter and of course he would expertly handle the griddle. Both my parents sought out recipes and my dad would develop/invent the proper tool if one wasn’t readily available at the kitchen supply store. He really was a talented guy—it seemed he always was able to invent whatever he needed, for anything. As you can imagine, they compiled a whole cookbook dedicated to pancake recipes. Most of these recipes came from Sunset Magazine, which was our cooking Bible in the 60’s.
One morning my parents decided to make pongee pancakes (recipe below). The cottage cheese requirement (my mom insisted on large curd) in this recipe and choice of toppings usually elicited a heated discussion over the breakfast table. But regardless of our pancake alliances, we all loved them. My brother asked my dad to make them again a few weeks later. However there were some communication issues. My brother couldn’t pronounce the word pongee, and dad couldn’t figure out which recipe he was talking about. There were so many! Exasperated, my brother blurted out that he wanted ‘ginkgo pancakes, the ones with the lumpy white stuff in them.’ He was referring to the large curd cottage cheese that my mom preferred. And from that day forward pongee pancakes became ginkgo pancakes.
1 c Cottage cheese
1/4 c Flour
1/4 c Sugar
1/4 ts Salt
1/8 ts Pepper
Whirl eggs and cheese together in a blender until well mixed and smooth. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and flour and whirl to blend. Pancakes will fry up small and thin on the griddle. Serve with sour cream and fresh berries or jam. Brown sugar may also be sprinkled on top. Tastes like a blintz without all the fuss.
With this fond memory in mind, the tattoo decision had been made: a ginkgo leaf on my wrist.
I made an appointment for Sunday, September 7, with someone named Chris. Incidentally, my first kiss was with a boy named Chris. What were the odds that I’d have my first tattoo and kiss from someone named Chris?
The day of the appointment rolled around pretty fast. I’ll be honest, I was worried about how painful it would be, but most of all whether I would regret such a permanent marking on my skin. Then there were decisions to be made: what color? how big? date? no date? What if Chris screwed up? I arrived a bit early for my appointment. I noticed the tattoo place was surrounded by taverns. After pondering whether to have a stiff drink beforehand, I opted for coffee. I ordered my coffee at this sweet little hole in the wall coffee shop, and the barista asked me what my plans were for the rest of the day. I explained that I was early for an appointment to get my first tattoo, and after considering alcohol, I decided coffee would be a better choice. He proceeded to take off his shirt and show me his fully tattooed back. He pointed out where it hurt most and why, explained the difference between needle sizes and why colors hurt more. He did all of this sans shirt, which I certainly didn’t take issue with. Thanks to his lively banter, I began to relax a bit about getting the tattoo.
I headed across the street for my appointment. Chris was great, and in order to calm myself I kept chatting with him. At first Chris was reserved, but soon enough I had him talking. I asked him what his craziest tattoo experience had been. First he demurred, but then he thought of something. He didn’t think the was too crazy—but odd nonetheless. A young kid came in one day and asked for his girlfriend’s name (Jessica) tattooed in script on his neck. He swore he was eighteen; Chris had his doubts. As he got started with the tattoo, he kept asking Chris to make it bigger…no bigger! It ended up being about 5 inches long. About halfway through the process, Chris asked how long the two of them had been together. As it turns out, they had been dating for two weeks. Needless to say, when the tattoo was complete, the kid looked a bit shell shocked. Chris mentioned that those are the days that make you never want to give anyone a tattoo again.
Chris asked me why I was getting a ginkgo leaf tattoo. I told him my story. As it turns out, tomorrow was his birthday—his coworkers had already hung a banner in the studio, and there was a gift for him to open. He smiled and thanked me for giving him an early birthday gift; he assured me this was one of the best birthday gifts he’d ever received.
People ask me if it hurt, or if I cried during the tattoo. After all I have been through over the past months: death, leaving my job, and other life changing experiences, this was a piece of cake. I think I’ll go back to Chris for more. My first tattoo.