When I first started working at a newspaper, eons ago, I saved every article I wrote, no matter how small and insignificant. It didn’t take long to drop that habit.
Then, as I moved into doing features and, eventually, writing my own column, I started saving again–but only the ones that I particularly liked. I guess I thought they’d come in handy someday. They never did.
Five years ago, I moved twice in two years to two different states, and lots of things got lost in the shuffle–including those saved articles and columns. This past week, however, one of them resurrected itself, and I have my mom to thank for it. As moms do, she also saved some of my work, and in her most recent letter, she included one of them.
I thought it would be fun to reprint it. Bear in mind that it was written 10 years ago, when Mom, my sister and I all lived in the same town. Now, we don’t even live in the same state. But, as this column shows, we share some fun memories. The column follows:
Don’t panic, I intend to stay normal
I consider myself a fairly conservative person.
A few bright colors here and there, a few outlandish remarks now and then, but nothing too head-turning, too out of the ordinary.
How then have I ended up with biker chicks in the family?
These didn’t enter by way of marriage. These would be my mother and my sister. My 81-year-old mother. My 53-year-old sister. Women who were, until this past Saturday, pretty normal.
I’ll admit my artist mother does put together some unusual collages, and she paints furniture in designs that would stand out on a dark night. My sister does insist on wearing purple and red together, or purple and green, and the earrings on one ear never match the earrings on the other.
I’d gotten used to those things, however. They didn’t stop the two of them from doing normal things like going to Mass every Sunday, watching family-type movies, shopping at the mall, making Christmas lists and eating on their deck.
So, I was unprepared for the momentous announcement, for the grand unveiling, when they stopped over on Sunday.
“Guess what Mom and I did yesterday?” was my sister’s opening challenge. Millions of possibilities, but she insisted I take a stab at it.
“It’s something that will last forever,” she hinted.
“You bought plots in the cemetery,” I offered. They weren’t amused. She tried again.
“We went someplace you’d never expect us to be.”
“A Baptist revival meeting?” I guessed. I was obviously way off the track with that one, too.
Recognizing me as a lost cause, they both reached down at the same time and raised their pant legs. I saw, on each of their legs, just above the ankle, a tattoo. I was determined to handle this correctly.
“Oh sure, but they’re not permanent,” I said, hardly raising an eyebrow, refusing to be bamboozled by temporary daring-do.
“You don’t think they’re real, do you?” my sister asked, obviously delighted that I had underestimated both of them. I still wasn’t quit ready to admit that these erstwhile normal women had flipped their lids. If the tattoos were real, what would be next–studs in the nose? Rings in their lips?
I didn’t want to overreact. I didn’t want to set myself up to hear “fooled you!” So, I calmly waited for them to spill the real story.
It appeared, however, that the real story is what they had given me. These were real tattoos, the indelible, inscribed-with-needles, won’t-wash-off type. A butterfly for my sister, a dragonfly for Mom.
Into my mind flashed the image of these two very straight women, sauntering into a “tattoo parlor,” slinging their legs up on a table, and waiting for the painful process to begin. I could just imagine the looks of shock on the faces of the tattoo artists.
That scenario wasn’t far from wrong. Except that, instead of shocking the ink-and-needle artists, Mom and Sis delighted them.
They caused a stir when it was learned they were a mother-daughter duo, and another one when Mom’s age was announced. She set a record for being the oldest they’d done in that shop.
My sister is on a roll. She’s talking about her next piece of artwork. Mom has decided she’s been brave enough for one lifetime.
But when they both turned their eyes on me, I just shook my head. I’ve heard my makeup called “war paint,” and that’s as good as it’s going to get.