My grandmother is the eternal matriarch, the kind that says exactly what’s on her mind, and feels a sense of duty to “raise” anyone who’s at least a generation younger than she. Do you know the type? She bakes me a batch of cookies and then tells me not to eat all of them or I’ll get fat. Oh oh oh, and (I can’t believe I’m admitting this publicly) she once gave me a “pat on the behind” for not being hungry… when I was 27.
That’s my granny.
I planned to tell her about my new tattoo before the family reunion, you know, just in case she felt the need to scold me. At least I could control the environment by calling her instead of surprising her in front of the amazing covered-dish lunch with all four generations of our relatives gathering at her country church.
She picked up the phone and we talked about the family reunion and then: “Granny, I wanted to let you know I got a tattoo.”
“ohhhh noooooo… Now why’d you do a thing like that? I hate those things.”
I had the privilege of finding out exactly what my grandmother thought about tattoos, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. She explained that it wasn’t right to alter our bodies. Valid point, Granny. I mentioned pierced-ears and leg-shaving. Then my grandfather picked up on the conversation and said that the Devil makes people get tattoos.
I didn’t know how I would get out of that one—except to explain why I got the tattoo: I designed it myself and it says “create,” which I feel is my life purpose. God made me to be an artist and to create things. I expected the meaning behind my tattoo would clear up everything. She is, in fact, the woman who gave me my first drawing lessons on the back pew of her country church.
“Only God can create.”
I thought about my inability to create in the “ex nihilo” sense. I also thought about the “Imago Dei” element of human creativity—that, just as God is a creative being, so too are we. Instead of digging into all that, I talked about how I “create” things when I write songs and make art. She understood what I meant, and didn’t push the point.
Whew. Crisis averted. All was well with Granny.
I promised to bathe in holy water every night between our conversation and the family reunion, just to keep from bringing the Devil with me.
And, oh, when we pulled up at her country church for the family reunion? She bounced out the door calling my name, and wanted to see my tattoo.
“Oh, well, that’s not so bad.”