Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tattoos and sequins

In my real life, I stopped wanting to hear her name. It is like a sacred prayer mispronounced in broken Latin. She is mine. My moment of horror. My moment of meditation. My secret love. Only I know her. Only I whisper to her. Only I miss her.

I know that isn't true. Grief perverts the truth. It makes me see the notes not there instead of the ones there. It makes me see failures, instead of successes. I makes me feel lonely in a room of people. It makes me feel like I knew her, or that she was ever mine. She was not.

I wrote her name on my body. Or rather, I paid someone else to write her name on my body in my handwriting. It is all I ever gave her-a name. See, after she died, I didn't always paint and write. I sat at the table, head in the crook of my arm crying, writing her name over and over and over again in a notebook.

She existed. It says it right here, fifteen hundred times.

I spent all of my daughter's naptime some days, writing her name. It sounds crazy when I type it out, but I didn't know what to do with all this Lucia energy. If I were a runner, perhaps I would have ran for miles, each step I would have said her name, "Lucia. Lucia. Lucia. Lucia."  One day I wrote her name all over my arm, like she was my eighth grade crush. I thought maybe I would tattoo it on me. And I thought at two years if I still wanted it, I would do it. I still wanted it, so I did it.

It took ten minutes to write her name on my body.

I waited for over an hour for the artist to arrive. A girl stood and talked to me about what kind of tattoo she should get. I couldn't bear to tell her that I was tattooing my dead daughter's name on my wrist. She had scars across the eyebrows where studs once pierced through her skin. She asked me if I liked dragons, and I said yes, very much. I remembered this tattoo I once saw at a party of this green dragon, and it read, "I survived the Green Monster." Someone later told me that it meant he was a PCP addict. PCP is the Green Monster. I don't know what PCP is, really, except that I have heard urban folklore about PCP addicts doing insane things to escape the police. The girl said she had been a heroin addict for eight years. She told me she was 25 now, and had been saving for  tattoo. It looked like she was carrying all of her possessions with her. "I used to always be broke when I shot up. Or about to be." She said she has been clean for a year, but I could tell she wasn't quite clean yet. She went into the bathroom for fifteen minutes. I could hear her getting her rig ready, the smell of a lighter. I felt sad suddenly. It was Lucy's day. I didn't want anyone to slowly kill herself. She was someone's Lucy.

The tattoo artist remembered me. And then I told her that I wasn't who she remembered. She tattooed my identical twin sister six months ago. Philadelphia is the biggest small town in the world. She remembered the ladybug she included in Lucy's honor. That comforted me. She already tattooed Lucia on someone. It didn't hurt. I remember my other tattoo hurting, but this one just felt like she was writing my darkest secret on my skin.

We spent the afternoon napping. We decided to have sushi. The baby and Beatrice ate rice, edamame, miso soup and other little bits of yumminess. I used to joke that Beatrice ate once a month when we went out for Japanese food.Thomas is the same. Everyone was contented and in good spirits. I eavesdropped on the couple behind us. She came into the dark-nooked restaurant in a silver sequined dress. Her date said, "You are very sparkly." Beatrice couldn't keep her eyes off her. She asked me if I could buy her a dress like that, only smaller. I have bat hearing. I hear conversations all over the place. I overhear people talking about every sorst of thing, including me and my family. But what I overheard was that he was cheating on his wife with this woman. Broken people and a broken marriage. And it made me wonder if my secrets were just as visible as all these other people hiding their addictions and affairs under tattoos and sequins.

After we came home and put Thomas to bed, we lit Lucy's ring of Santka Lucia candles, and said one thing we missed about her at each of the twelve candles. There were not enough candles. Beatrice said, "I miss playing dress up." And I said, "I miss kissing her tootsies." And Sam said, "I miss her crying."

We have spent three days in ritual and remembrance. It felt right. It felt important. This year was filled with setting and achieving goals. Of explicating my grief in word and art, and not being present enough to feel it. I have realized that I have been running away in projects, escaping my grief in grief art. These three days I realized how easy it has been to pretend everything is normal. To put Lucy in this space that I have included as work space, or creative space, but not feeling space. I didn't feel her loss as much as it must seem. As my head rested on the pillow, feeding Thomas Harry before bed, the almost full moon sat in the window, illuminating his head. Tears ran off my nose onto his little head. She is dead. My baby girl died. I write her name.


  1. I love the tattoo. I love that it is your handwriting and I love the trails before and after, with your Lucy in the middle of all the wonder and the unknown that elipses represent.

    I think your observation about grief art is astute. I have often wondered at something similar in myself but have never been able to put it into words.

  2. I do truly love it. And you. And her.

    My interest is peaked by the grief art mention. And I hope the rest of this week is as good as what is possible to follow up the specialness of these the last 3 days.

    Much love.

  3. Oh Angie, your tattoo is just beautiful. I like your handwriting... it's perfect. I love that your sister has the ladybug in Lucia's memory. Me and my sis are about to get a family tattoo (by the same artist) and I'd love her to include Sky as well. Don't know if she is going to...

    Poor girl in the store. Even IF she's clean for a year, she'd still be a heron addict. Long way to go... the dragon will chase her until the end of days.

    I like the ritual you did with the candles... made me get a big lump in my throat. It's a beautiful thing you're doing in her honor and I thank you for sharing all this with us. Love you. xx

  4. A beautiful tattoo and, like skytimes has already said, I would like to add that you have wonderful handwriting.

    My sister used to work in drug rehab with heroin addicts and it used to crush me how often the same people would come back to her. I hope that the young girl you met frees herself. Sometimes the thought that everyone is 'somebody's Lucy' is just too hard to bear.

    Thinking of you and your Lucia. You did so many beautiful things to remember her by. xo

  5. Angie, her name is so perfect. It is beautiful, really, so simple, but so beautiful. Missing your lovely Lucia with you. xx

  6. Beautiful tattoo.

    And I loved your post. I look at people and imagine what their dark secret is. Sometimes when I gather the courage to tell someone about my daughter, they share a secret as well. Everyone has something they keep close, waiting for the right person to ask about it. It's sad and comforting.

  7. i just want to sit and cry with you or hug you or something! this is a beautiful post (i love your writing)...thank you for sharing your heart with us and i especially thank you for all you do for all of us bereaved parents.

  8. Beautiful tattoo. I like where you chose to put it, too.

    Been thinking about you and Lucy lots lately. Much love.


  9. oh it is so beautiful angie. so beautiful. just like you, just like lucia.

    what is it with the inside of the left wrist? it's where I knew I would have my tattoo for otis, from the moment I knew he was dying I knew that would be where I would carry him, and I know of several other mamas who have tattoos for their babies who have died in that exact same spot. my guess is that it has to do with the vulnerability, the tenderness, the lifeline-ness of that spot.

    sending you so much love, as always.

  10. I love the tattoo that you have for her. I have just written her name before over and over.

  11. The tattoo is perfect. I'm so glad the artist remembered your sister and Lucy's ladybug.

    Thinking of you and sending love.

  12. Your tattoo is just perfect. I love it and I loved this post. Heartbreaking and truthful and beautiful.

  13. I had a bit of a tiff with a friend last night and told her on the phone "she's my private pain". I know that is not entirely true, I'm not the only one who grieves for her and misses her, but sometimes it really does feel that way.
    My tattoo for Hope didn't hurt either - not at all. In fact, I laughed the entire time, and I was only a month in to my grief when I got it done. I quite possibly was losing the plot and if I didn't laugh, I may never have stopped crying.
    Lovely post again, as always.
    Remembering Lucia as you enter your third year without her.

  14. Oh the tattoo is lovely.

    I joke about the "My Baby Died" t-shirt, but frankly sometimes I wonder if everyone just doesn't know anyway. I imagine someone in a sushi restaurant over the past few years choked on perfectly good tuna when they heard me talking about blogging grief or how our family deserted us in our time of crisis.

    Thinking of you all, and everything you miss about Lucia.

  15. I've been quoting your little Bea in my head for the past couple days.

    "I just miss."

    There's really no better way to put it than that. I just miss.

  16. I've never been a tattoo kinda gal.. but I have considered one for Dresden too.. to have his name permanently on my body seems so right! Lucia's names looks lovely on your skin.. and Sam missing her crying made me cry.. something you'd never think you'd miss. You honor Lucy so beautifully.

  17. Oh Angie it is so very beautiful.. and I have a soft spot for the inner left wrist as I got one of my tattoos there a month after Cullen died.
    thinking of you and precious Lucia....

  18. I love the tattoo. And some time I wonder if my greif is noctiable too, is it plastered on my forehead? (((hugs)))

  19. Somedays it's just clear that the world is full of hurt.

    The tatoo is perfect

  20. Beautiful post Angie
    Thinking of you and Lucy...always

  21. I am amazed and awed at the three days of beautiful remembrance you gave to Lucia, as well as the space on your body - a space that you can see every day. The tattoo, its beautiful. As Audrey said, I especially like "all the wonder and the unknown that elipses represent."

    I feel as if I have been running away lately, from remembering, from grief, from blogs even. Some people (in my family, the ones that told me "now its time to move on" after the first year anniversary) must be pleased with that.

    But I'm not sure where I am going.

    You hold and cherish the memory of Lucy so beautifully within your family. I love that. I just do.

  22. Beautiful, Angie.

    Now I want a tattoo - to tell the world "She was here and she will never be forgotten."

    Your candle ritual was heartbreakingly lovely. Thank you for finding the words.


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