My two sisters and I have this tattoo on our wrists. My oldest daughter designed it for us. Three music clefs: the treble clef is up on mine because it looks like an S for Stacy; the bass clef is up on my sister Jen’s because it kind of looks like a J; and the alto clef is up on my sister Becky’s because it looks like a B. We all took piano lessons as kids and were in band all through high school, so music was in our lives.
When my daughter turned 18 she told me she wanted a tattoo. I had been thinking about it for many years and I told her that if she still wanted one when she had waited a year we would go in and get them together. Not quite a year later, and after lots of discussions about picking something meaningful, we went in together. We both got honu (sea turtles) in the same spot. She picked a highly detailed traditional Polynesian design. I made mine a bit more personal adding my children’s initials and Ohana to the design.
Maegan, New Hampshire
This tattoo was my first. Shane was a 15 year old trans-man. He took his own life before he could actually experience it. He was always full of life and an incredible inspiration to not only me but to everyone who actually gave him the chance. Shane wrote a poem: “The 27 Things I Want to Do Before I Die.” “Be Revolutionary” was the last on his list, and he most certainly was.
My grandfather had a wild child of a sister who, if I’m remembering right, ran off in her teens to marry a carnie. She loved to fall in love, but it didn’t always end well. I only met her once, at lunch, when my family was on a road trip and we stopped at her and her current husband’s home. When he was spoken about among family members, it was always in dark, hushed tones. He was mean, apparently, angry and abusive, with a violent temper, and my great-aunt was afraid of him. At that lunch what I, the child, saw was an old man who sat silently at the head of the table. I watched as he tried to spread mustard on a piece of bread. The knife dropped from his hand and mustard splattered on his plate. I remember the covert look he darted around the table when this happened. No one said anything or looked at him, but I remember briefly meeting his eyes and sensing his humiliation. The image of that old man and the look in his eyes has been with me my whole life, and it came flooding back when I read this poem.
– Ted Kooser
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.
For more information on Ted Kooser, please click here.
Steve, southern California
I’m a bartender by night and an internationally competitive drone racer by day. This is my one and only tattoo. I got it when I moved from Portland, the City of Roses, to California, as a symbol of a major transition in my life.
I got this when I was 18, a few months after I moved away for college. It’s my grandma’s handwriting off of the very first letter she wrote me. I found it after she died when I was going through a box of letters and cards my parents kept for me. She was my favorite, and the most strong-willed, hard working, sassy and kind person I’ve ever met. She’s the person I aspire to be like.
A great artist covered up a really ugly iris that looked like a bruise on my leg. Now I have this lovely orchid.
I have a few tattoos but the one that means the most is my niece’s name that I have on my shoulder. She died in utero during the third trimester of my sister’s first pregnancy. Since she was below a certain weight, we didn’t have a death certificate. We buried her on my sister’s ranch in Kansas. I planned the small memorial and my brother-in-law built her casket. It was life-changing, but I’m so glad for this little daily reminder.
Sherry, Indiana, and Matthew, Maryland
The long story behind our (matching) tattoos begins a year ago in March of 2015. I was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker. This prestigious award is given to 50 librarians world wide each year. Matthew Winner was named a Mover and Shaker in March of 2013. To celebrate, Matthew sent me a graphic he had designed which said Mover and Shaker in Gallifreyan, the language of Time Lords (from our absolute favorite classic show, Doctor Who). Matthew said he wanted to make me a shirt that had the graphic. The shirt conversation soon turned into “wouldn’t that be a cool tattoo?” At first it was a bit of a joke, but the more we talked about it, the better the idea sounded. Matthew and I decided we would have our Gallifreyan Mover and Shaker tattoos done while we were both in Columbus, Ohio for our bi-annual school librarian conference.
The very first night we were in town we went and had our tattoos done. Four months later, it’s still the most awesome thing we’ve done in celebration of being Movers and Shakers, best friends, and as a daily reminder that we are enough and are doing good things!
Dawn, New York City
This was my present to myself for finishing grad school. I wanted to be a librarian since I was a child. I didn’t go to grad school right out of college. I worked as a retail manager for over 20 years. Then I decided to do it, I was going to grad school and finally becoming a librarian. I worked full time and took one class a semester until my last semester when I took two. I promised myself that if I made it through to the end I’d get myself the one tattoo I really wanted. A pinup librarian! This one was done by Gentle Jay Blondel (from season 4 of Ink Master). He drew her to resemble me and did the best job I could have wanted!