Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tattoos I Know: Avital's Ink

It seems odd and yet is not beyond comprehension that, at the last two bat mitzvahs I have attended, I came home with tattoo pictures.

The first time (documented here) was a pleasant surprise. On Saturday, August 8, however, I had no expectations, as it was my daughter's bat mitzvah.

However, much to my amazement, I noticed that one of my sister's closest friends, Avital, has two small tattoos. I was more surprised, considering that Avital is a cantor, and that whereas tattooed Jews are not as rare as they used to be, an inked cantor is still an unusual sight.

Granted, her two tattoos don't jump out at you. The om on her right ankle:

and the slender "b+" on her right wrist

are discreet enough to be overlooked by a discriminating eye, and yet these two small tattoos are large with meaning.

Avital gave me a synopsis the day I took the photos, summing up that the "b+" was a personal message to herself to always "be positive," and that it is her blood type, but she has since offered up a lengthier, more thorough explanation, which I'll share here:

" [The b+], though it is very small (1/2") represents many important parts of my life: past, present and future. When my college friend, Erica died in December from Leukemia, I was devastated. Throughout her illness, she managed to have good spirits and enjoy time with her friends and family. Her battle against cancer put life in perspective for me. I have struggled with depression most of my adult life, and when she died, I made the conscious decision to turn my life around, completely. The morning after her death, my father was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. Double whammy. My sister and I had both been contemplating a tattoo for several years, but Jewish guilt always managed to turn me away. After several hours in the ER with our father, we ventured down to Kingdom [Tattoos] and got our matching b+ tattoos. It's incredible how much strength I find from this little symbol on my wrist.

And Avital added:

"And the B in the b+ tattoo is a flat. in music. since I'm a musician. I can't believe I forgot that part! flats are most commonly associated with minor, "sad" keys. so, there is a bit of sadness in the tattoo. too."

As for the om, she elaborates:

"One of the major changes I made in my life after E died was a regular Yoga practice. An unfortunate encounter with a sharp blade left a 1" scar on my inner right ankle. After about 3 months of drawing an OM over the scar with a sharpie (so tedious!) I decided to make it permanent. The OM, like my b+, centers me, calms me, and reminds me of the simpler, more important things in life."

Much thanks to Avital for sharing her tattoos and the powerful stories behind them here with us on Tattoosday.

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