Tattooing my Oldest Daughter
What is it like Tattooing my Daughter?
When Emma was little she always wanted a tattoo. She would sit for hours and make me draw butterflies and koi fish and daisies and monsters and even food items like pancakes. I drew on her, with a marker, up and down her arms.
I don’t ever remember a time that she wasn’t enamored by tattoos. It makes sense. I mean, she did grow up with a tattoo artist father. Her first tattoo was small. She got it when she was 15. The first tattoo was just three small dots, the same tattoo that me and her mother shared. I seriously thought maybe this was it. She just wanted to get a small tattoo to be like mom and dad. When she was 16 she asked for another tattoo for her birthday and this became a trend. Every birthday she got another tattoo for something that was really important to her.
One design was a simple black dragonfly that I tattooed on her and her mother the same day. It was hard to say no, because I could tell how much meaning it had for her to share a tattoo and an experience with her mother. Her aunt Patty passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Emma was living with her at the time so we did a small tattoo of a hummingbird in memory of Patty. It was the same design that Patty wanted me to tattoo on her, but I never got the chance.
So every time Emma wanted to get tattooed it was hard to say no, because all the tattoos she picked had some type of healing quality to it. Then in April of last year her mother passed. Emma was only 19 years old. She already had her own apartment and was living in Michigan. Her world was turned upside down.
Emma’s last year hasn’t been easy. Six months after her mother passed, her grandmother passed as well. Emma performed CPR on her grandmother until medical aid arrived. And within one year Emma lost 3 woman in her family who had the most influence in her life.
With all the pain and uncertainty that Emma has faced in the last year she is such an unbelievably strong woman. She stays on top of her mental health, and she does not isolate. She took a job working for me and took phlebotomy classes. As we speak, she’s drawing blood at a Cancer Center here in Saint Louis.
This last tattoo was the hardest. Emma said it wasn’t a memorial for her mom, but it was definitely inspired by her. She asked for a large tattoo of mother earth. I drug my feet trying to draw it up. She finally pinned me down and got an appointment on the books. I drew it twice. This tattoo was different than the others I’ve done.
I have been tattooing for 27 years. Tattoos bring joy, they heal, they open new chapters and close old ones in my clients lives. Tattoos are more than a trend. Tattoos are a moment defined by an image. I have detached myself as much as I can from the emotional side of tattooing. My job is to serve my client as best I can to give him an image that tells the story of their life.
Tattooing my daughter, it was impossible for me to not have the emotional connection to her as my client. That is the hardest thing about tattooing Emma. I guess the only way I can describe it is to use an analogy. Imagine an iron worker 60 stories up concentrating on their work. For 27 years, the fear of falling has been ignored until one day it he looks down and becomes obsessed with the danger of their job.
Tattooing my daughter was the scariest job I have ever taken on as a tattoo artist.
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