Way, way before tats became au courant, my sister had a gorgeous tattoo of a bodhisattva, that enlightened disciple of Buddha, etched onto her right shoulder. I remember the first time I saw it – around 1986 or 1987. I was shocked that she had had half of her arm covered by a tattoo. But there was no denying the artistry of the piece. It had been drawn by a brilliant artist who simply preferred skin to canvas, never a concept I quite embraced, but it was a work of fine art. The delicacy of the lines, and the sensitivity of the shading, merged into a face of compassion and tranquility. The posted photo does not do it justice, but after searching the thousands of photos of my sister I found out I never nailed a great shot of the tattoo. I was too resistant to the idea of scored skin (still am) to want to take a picture. But after 20 years, I became used to it. Even fond of it.
But things change, and the tattoo no longer fit my sister’s lifestyle, so she decided to have it removed. She told me it was a long and painful process. The one piece of advice she has given her daughters, should they decide to go the way of Bob’s son, and get a tattoo is: stay away from color.
It is purely practical advice because it is a bear to remove inked-in red, blue and green hues from the skin. And as we, who reside on the right side of 50 know all too well, skin texture morphs, melts and perhaps even sags in some places. We know that that tattooed cinnabar heart, which seemed so alluring on the arm at 20, may actually droop uncontrollably at 60.
Anyway, from time to time, I sort of miss the bodhi that danced on my sister’s shoulder. However, she has informed me, that if I look closely, traces of her remain – an outline of a memory.
So here’s to my sister, who had the hipness to decide to get a tattoo ahead of the curve. And is no doubt still ahead of the curve in getting it removed.