11 June 2010

a blue horse galloping away from me

Here's where we left off the story of my mother's tattoo:

And then in the bathroom of the Walnut Room not too long later, my practical, comfortable-shoe-wearing mother hiked up her skirt and said, “Do you want to see my tattoo?”

{To read the rest of the beginning, all you have to do is click here.}

So there it was.  A horse in the style of a Native American petroglyph, those rock drawings you find in Utah and other places out West that the Indians used to share news about hunts.  It was a stylized version of it—the back end sort of devolved into swirly wind lines—but in the few seconds I took to look at the tattoo on the side of her upper thigh, I would definitely say it was a blue horse petroglyph.

“Oh my gosh, Mother, I hope that's a fake tattoo!”

“Nope, it's a real one.”

“On your thigh.  You got a real tattoo of a blue horse on your thigh.”  I felt the need to state very clearly and pedantically the facts of the case, as if I were in court cross-examining her.

“Looks like it.”

“Good Lord, Mother, put your skirt down.”  No one else was in the bathroom, but I still felt, for propriety's sake, that her skirt should be where it belongs.  Hiding the tattoo.

I looked away—down, over, up, anywhere else.

For how fancy the rest of the Walnut Room is, their bathroom is pretty institutional standard.  I thought about how pretty it would be in woodland colors, muted greens, perhaps, with paintings of walnut trees on the walls.  How appropriate.

“That is completely inappropriate, Mother!  You do realize those things are permanent, don't you?”  I did an impatient toe tap as she just laughed—laughed!—at me trying to spit out a complete sentence that didn't involve an exclamation point.

I've never called her Mother so many times in a row, but I couldn't help myself.  I felt the need to use her full name, and for me, that meant pulling out the drawn-out Mo-ther.

“Mother!  Stop laughing!  Does Grandma know you did this?” I asked as we headed back to our table.

My grandma and aunt heard me coming from 50 feet away.

“Mother, it's like I don't even know you anymore.  What in the world possessed you to tattoo your body?!?”

My mom's side of the family has this bouncing, echoing laugh, the kind that's effective even in very noisy places, which the Walnut Room is not.  On a Sunday afternoon, that place is as quiet as an Evangelical church during the confession of sins when the pastor tells you to think about what you've done wrong and get it right with Jesus. 

My aunt and grandma had started their bouncing, echoing, filling-the-Walnut-Room laugh before I even sat back down.  “Melodee,” my aunt got out. “You promised you'd wait and tell her in front of us so we could see her reaction!”

“Oh, she's still having her reaction; you didn't miss a thing.”  My mom’s eyes were all crinkly and twinkly from how much she was smiling.  I think she liked seeing me struggling for balance and poise, which doesn’t seem very motherly to me.

They all looked at me, ready for the show.  I serve as the entertainment sometimes in my family, a role that usually doesn't bother me, but in the face of a tattoo, I thought that maybe I didn't deserve to be the center of attention.

“But Mo-ther, what did Dad say?”

“Your dad made the appointment for me.”

Oh.  My.  Word.  I was utterly alone in this fight.  All my pillars of practical, level-headed responsibility—my grandma, my dad, my mom—had deserted me.

I started to think that maybe my grandma had a tattoo, as well, something like “Quilter 4 Life” in Gothic script.

In a world where my mother had a blue horse on her thigh, even that was possible.


  1. “Good Lord, Mother, put your skirt down.”

    If I had a dime for every time I had to say that to my mother...

  2. I'm glad you like it, ec. Because you obviously actually know these people (ie, our mother and grandma!). I just wrote the end of this last night...so I'll be posting that soon. Perhaps you could read it aloud to Mom when you're home :)



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