A couple of years ago, my son got a tattoo. I was glad he didn’t tell me about it until after he had it because I would have been even more upset. There was really nothing I could do about it once the words were eternally in place. In reality there was probably nothing I could have done about his decision before he had the tattoo either. By the time I saw it, it was clearly a done deal. He chose the hebrew words for “This too shall pass,” to be inscribed forever on the inside of his arm, just above his elbow, oriented so he could read it.
Over these last few years, there have been several occasions when he has been upset over a relationship, or difficult decisions he has had to make, or with seemingly contentious or insensitive people he has worked with. Though I have tried to commiserate or offer advice, sometimes all I can meaningfully say is, “READ YOUR ARM!”
I was thinking about my son’s arm today as the school year winds toward spring break. The History Fair is tomorrow night, with thousands of things to accomplish beforehand including, but not limited to, the setting up of the space and the poster boards and the final research papers (which the students are still tweaking) and the food. There are several union issues that are in differing stages of resolution and needing meetings in the next two days (as well as one over the break itself). I still have a small stack of papers to grade. The classroom is a mess and needs serious attention. I and my colleagues are in the midst of packing up our office space for a move to the second floor that will take place at the end of the school year. Narrative grades are due the week after break (didn’t we just do these?). Not to speak of the myriad of other unresolved and shared colleague and familial issues and challenges. Did I say I am thinking about my son’s arm?
OK, I am no longer so reticent about tattoos and the potential they hold for pulling us out of the microcosm and into the larger picture of our lives. “READ YOUR ARM!”