My Tattoo

I posted this picture to my Facebook a few months ago comparing my “bump” at 2 months vs. 6 months. And I got tons and tons of questions about my tattoo so I thought I would share the meaning behind it.

p.s. I accidentally shared this picture forgetting that my dad had never seen my tattoo before! OOPS! In my defense, I told him about it and he said he didn’t want to see… and then I guess he forgot about it altogether.

I have only one tattoo. I got it last November. (To read more about changes in my life last November, like quitting my job, click here).

I generally only like black and white tattoos, but I wanted something softer so this one is only brown and white- no other color, no black. (I had to talk the artist into this… he wanted to outline in black).

I decided to get this tattoo YEARS ago.I had wanted a family tree tattoo since I was a preteen, but family trees are so cliche. So when I saw an amazing picture of a deer online, I was so excited. The antlers immediatley gave me the idea of having a family “tree” using the deer’s antlers instead of tree branches. I quickly printed this online picture and stuck it on my desk. It stayed there for years until I spilled water on it and was forced to  sketch what I could to preserve it. The sketch (below) has been on my desk since 2012.

Symbolism is very important to me. I liked the idea of having a family tree and also the symbolism of a deer in one piece of art. I like the dichotomies that deer/ stags represent- they are protective yet gentle, strong yet graceful, powerful yet cautious. I once read that a deer will not attack another creature unless it has first been attacked, but to defend itself, it will fight to the death. Maybe fighting “to the death” is a strong analogy for family loyalty, but I like the idea that our family, as a deer, is un-provoking, but would defend itself (the whole family unit) at all costs.

The antlers of the deer are a family tree starting with my paternal grandparents as the deer.

The deer only shows my Dad’s side of the family. I love my mom’s side of the family, too! But they are small and easy to keep track of- four cousins whom I see regularly. My Dad’s side is much larger- my Dad is one of 8 and I have 20 first cousins. Those people are almost all married and have kids of their own. The next generation down has 47 so far (almost! my little man is #47, I think, and currently 4 days overdue). I like the idea that no matter how spread apart we are and how VASTLY different our values and political persuasions are, we are all connected.

This connection stems from my grandparents. It was extremely important to my grandfather in particular that the entire family be loving and accepting of all. Once we were talking about Ann Coulter and I guess my comments tipped him off to my left-leaning tendencies because he responded “You aren’t one of those liberals, are you?” He put his hand on my shoulder and said “Well, that’s okay, we love you anyway,” and winked. Obviously he was joking, but this was his true response to differences of opinion. He had strong opinions and loved to discuss politics and world news, but he didn’t take it personally when others disagreed with him and he never let a debate grow into an argument.

My grandpa made sure that every one in our family, despite religious, political, or other persuasions, was treated with respect and made to feel welcome.

I had stared at this picture for years and never pulled the trigger on actually getting it as a tattoo. I decided one day that I would get it when my grandpa died, as a tribute to him. Kenny had done the same thing when his grandparents died and I liked the idea of having the tattoo be some sort of closure in the grieving process as well as a remembrance.

My grandpa died late last August and things were pretty hectic in my life. I started my new job, my first job as a lawyer, the next morning. So, I put off the tattoo. I didn’t even really think about it. But when my little cousin died in November, I couldn’t help but take stock of my life. It looked like she had done everything she wanted to in life and she was 17. I decided to start living the life I wanted to and to stop letting fear make decisions for me. One of the things that followed that decision? Finally getting my tattoo.

The deer represents my grandparents, the 8 branches of the antlers are my dad and his seven siblings, and the smaller offshoots are me and my cousins.

Before you ask, yes, it hurt. The smile is only because I was finally getting the tattoo I had wanted for years.


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