I know. I left you hanging and the lamb-shaped butter shaking in its dish on Easter. I, too, was waiting to see what happened when my niece, Em, showed off her tattoo to my Mom. I asked my spy to write down Mom’s reactions and words. We’ll call this spy, Katerina. (Not her civilian name.) Don’t miss a word, I demanded.
Here’s how it shook out.
Niece waited until after everyone had breakfast. Good call. Who gets mad during dessert and coffee? No one in my family. That’s when all the jokes and oh I have the funniest story moments start rolling in. Whoever can make Dad laugh to the point that all sound is drained from him and he clutches at his chest in mercy, wins. This is also the time when people have delivered news: We’re getting married. We’re having a baby. I’m going to Paris by myself. (Can you tell which one was mine?)
Em told my Mom she had something to show her. My brother, Adam, put his hand on Mom’s shoulder and Em lifted up her hair, revealing her Rodzina tattoo.
“Why did you do that?” my Dad calmly offered.
“I gonna punch you in the puchkis.” Mom said. I pictured her raising her fist in a jokey way.
Then instead of punching her in the cheeks, she kissed her neck.
She kissed her neck!
A relief! I think my brothers and sister-in-law noticed that she might not have registered what the word actually was and told her to look at it again.
Then it sort of stunned her.
My other brother texted me, She didn’t take it so bad. Once the coast was clear, I called.
“So Ma, what do you think of the tattoo?”
“You know I hate’dem.”
“Ya but don’t you think of all the tattoos she could have gotten that it’s kinda significant that she chose a word in Polish and that word means family? That’s pretty deep for such a young girl.”
“Hm,” Mom said, getting quiet. “Yah. You right, that says something. Thoughtful. Hm.” She paused again. “I’m gonna tell her after talking to you I understand her better.”
Now I was the one stunned. Really, I thought? How come it’s so easy for her to understand my 18 year old niece in a two sentence dialogue, but when it comes to conflict with me we have conversations that don’t end in Mom’s enlightenment?
Grandchildren can really do no wrong.
Later, I followed up with Mom.
“What did you end up saying to Emily?”
“She think I gonna take so badly. I ask her don’t do it. I tell her, I not upset. I tell her, after I talk to Jannett, what she say, it make me very warm. Usually I hate ‘dem tattoos, but somekinda make me happy.”
(Niece, when I am decrepit, I hope you remember to lift a spoon to my mouth!)
“Did you give more thought to the actual tattoo, the word, rodzina?” I asked.
“To me if someone cherish the family, to me, that is like Number 1. It feels good. To me, family means everything.”