i could probably write a million posts about how much i love my family. every time i come back from a visit to my hometown, i'm suffused with a feeling of such contentedness... this feeling truly puts my problems in perspective, the love so dwarfs the bad stuff. this weekend was an embarrassment of riches on the family front - my uncle, his wife, and my cousin flew down from new england to scoop up my college-freshman-cousin to spend some time with my family. it's so hard to explain what's so special about it all - we ate great food, but don't most families? we caught up and reminisced, but that's what families do, right? there's just something about being with people among whom you so clearly belong. there's the simple fact of our height - my dad and his brother are about 6'7" and 6'4", my sister's 6' tall, my cousins, mom, aunt, and i are all around 5'9. walking in a pack with this group feels so great - with them, i'm not this odd duck, the cygnet among ducklings with her head and shoulders above the crowd. that's actually a pretty apt, if unintentional, metaphor for the entire feeling of belonging. when i look at my parents and aunt and uncle, i see people i'd like to become in middle age, and when i look at my cousins, 16 and 18 years old, i see so much of myself at that age. one of the lessons of the ugly duckling is that suffering just doesn't matter as much when you have your flock to come home to. "To be born in a duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan's egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.... Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud... Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, "I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling."
i finally did it. i have been talking about it for more than a decade. half of my girl friends have done it. half the boys i love have done it time and time again. i got a tattoo. it's five birds in flight on the inside of my left wrist. i'll have a better photo later, maybe tomorrow, but i have time to write about it today so i thought i'd throw it up. the summer before my freshman year of college my friend deuce and i were full of plans we couldn't wait to launch once we arrived in athens. getting tattoos topped the list - hardly an original adventure for a couple of teenagers moving 600 miles from home, but it was ours. i told my dad about it over dinner at a tgi friday's outside durham, en route to my move-in. i wasn't worried about his reaction - my parents are fairly liberal folks with regards to child-rearing - pretty strict as we grew up, but once i graduated from high school they lifted my nightly curfew, fully ready to push their little bird out of the nest. my dad's measured response didn't surprise me, "well honey, it's a big decision, but it's your body..." but then he made me an offer i couldn't refuse: "wait till you graduate from college. be sure you really want it. and i'll give you $1,000." so i waited. coincidentally, so did deuce, and we became so wrapped up in college life that the urgency faded, and we both graduated ink-free. i was rewarded with the sweet iBook that got me through graduate school. the inclination never faded, though, and a couple years later deuce got her first, quickly followed by her second. i continued to admire the art on others, and talked it to death with anyone who would listen. i had an idea for one that i was pretty set on, but then on that magical night with my sister and psmee at the eric bachmann show, a bolt of lightning hit me and i changed gears. suddenly i knew i wanted a bird on my wrist - symbolically, it fit so well with the risks i've been trying to take more often. this evolved into a flock, symbolizing fluidity and freedom, and also expresses how i feel about my dear confidants who surround me and keep me aloft. writing it out makes it sounds so new-agey, but it's very real to me. i guess it better be since i've got it for life now! the birds are transfers from what amounts to my parents' bible - the sibley guide to birds, from the audubon society. they're actually gulls, which means i've got a flock of seagulls on my wrist... damn that 80s band, can't get the song out of my head. but it works for me because of my coastal upbringing and ocean cravings. psmee and my sister and her BF were all there for me during the entire process and i couldn't have asked for better guides. i'm not going to lie - it HURT. but it was completely manageable thanks to my skilled and slightly intimidating tattooist - he was cool enough that i didn't want to be a wuss in front of him, but humane and kind, too. the actual inking took about 25 minutes. i was flat on my back on a table like in a doctor's office... but as he astutely pointed out, does my doctor's office play black sabbath? anyway, when he was finished i rose slowly, a little lightheaded and woozy. i walked out to the shop area to show it off, then returned for a bandage and care instructions. about then this crazy high kicked in - like nothing i've EVER experienced. i was goofy, drunk on adrenaline. we met a bunch of friends for dinner and drinks and i was untouchable, shooting whisky and downing beers just to bring me down to earth a little. i called my parents - after shocking dad with "hey dad! guess what? i just got FIVE tattoos!" i described it and thanked him for the birds lifted from his book, and he's excited to see it. my mom said it best, though - as soon as i told her she said, "oh honey, this has been a lifelong dream for you!" she's so right.