Your gain: Learn about the two of my three tattoos that I got in honor of my parents. You’ll gain a more detailed perspective into my story and journey with grief, and learn a little more about me and my parents along the way!
Whether or not tattoos are your thing, not to worry. I’m certainly not here to convince you to get one, nor do I want to influence you in any way. I promised some “personal” content on the LBG Journal, so I’m here to share a little more about my story and how these tattoos came to fruition, if you’re curious.
To preface this, I’m the type of person that needs some meaning behind the tattoo. NOT here to knock you if you like getting a tattoo just because of how it looks or if there isn’t any crazy deep meaning. You do you, boo.
All I can say is, for me, I like to look down (or around, given my third one is on my back) and be able to smile and think of something that holds some significance. I mean, this thing is permanent, after all! Unless you go through the removal process, which is a bit much for me given I’m quite squeamish. Little fun fact for ya.
Last thing I’ll note: I’m kind of funny with tattoos in that the place I want it on my body just kind of… comes to me. In fact, that usually takes hold of me first before I even really get into the weeds of what I want to put there. It’s just a feeling I get that’s like, “yep, I want some art there, and that’s the next placement. That place feels right to me.” I don’t know, sound quirky? Can anyone relate?
The irony of all ironies here is that my dad especially actually hated tattoos. Probably one of the last things he would want me to do is get a tattoo that memorialized him in some way, but he’s not here so he can’t give me shit for it 🙂 We need to be able to laugh a little, right?
Without further ado, let’s jump right in—I’ll try and keep this short and sweet, but I’m not exactly known for being short winded… ha!
Tattoo 1: Roman Numerals
I honestly love this one because it always trips people up a little bit. By that, I mean they’re always trying to figure out what the meaning or value of the Roman numerals are. It’s kind of funny to watch.
Since I resonate so much with Italian culture and find the history of Rome and the Roman Empire so incredible, I knew for a very, very long time that I wanted a tattoo that involved Roman numerals.
I had often thought about saving that for whenever my future husband and I would get married. Mind you, John and I were still just dating and not remotely engaged yet. What’s comical about that now, which I never would have known at the time, is we “technically” have two wedding dates—June 11 and September 4.
That said, we really consider June 11 our “official” anniversary since that was the legal one, and first. Anyway, that’s a lot of Roman numerals that would have had to go to my arm!
I had also considered future children’s birthdays or something like that, but truthfully that felt a little too forward thinking at the time. Plus, not going to lie, I wanted something sooner than later! I had been waiting for this one long enough.
I thought about this one long and hard. After years of wanting these numerals and months of some really active thinking knowing I wanted to honor mom and dad in some way, it hit me: my parent’s wedding anniversary. April 10, 1981.
It wasn’t long after that that I made my appointment at Eternal Art Tattoo Gallery in Santa Rosa, CA and, I think, the artist did a beautiful job given how thin the lines are. It’s an extremely special piece to me. For me, it goes beyond a tattoo that just pays an homage to both of them. It speaks to their love story, and their 35+ years of marriage here earth side.
It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Like any couple, they had their disagreements and moments of strife. They even endured a some separation—not in their relationship or quality of the marriage, but geographically. My dad had to move back to the east coast for several years on and off to not only provide for our family, but to continue pursuing his passion for practicing law. He was one of the most incredible and successful criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey and I could scream from the rooftops with pride on how proud I still am of him.
His legacy in the world is so much more than just that accomplishment, but you get it. The point is, my mom supported that dream. She supported that need to go and do that, and their marriage was stronger for it. It wasn’t something everyone could understand, and I would often get questions from family and family friends about it, actually. How they were doing, how they could do that… they all wanted the tea.
But they understood it. So did I, and that’s all that mattered to me.
Their insanely beautiful example of love endured after my mom passed. After she died, my dad was, truthfully, so very alone and lost without her. Not that I wasn’t, don’t get me wrong, but that was his wife of over three decades. It’s a different loss and sense of loneliness, and it’s one I have the deepest respect for.
I have zero doubt in my mind he was “done”, so to speak, living with his prostate cancer once she left us. In my heart I know it’s no coincidence he left this world six months later. You hear that happen so often with couples together for a long time like that. As twisted as it is, I find so much beauty in it. In this human experience that we take with us to the other side.
He needed her, she needed him, and that gave me peace. It was a love stronger and more needed than I could understand, and it wasn’t my time to be selfish. They had done enough for me, and now it was their turn.
To memorialize that, and to make my Roman numerals mean something incredibly special and poignant, it was the perfect fit.
Tattoo 2: “Guardi Le Stelle”
Speaking of tattoos with painfully thin lines, this next one is a stunning single needle piece that I actually had done on John and I’s honeymoon. If you can’t quite tell, this tattoo is on my left forearm. I did so much research to go to the right place for this very specific design I wanted, I can’t even tell you.
I was so fortunate to find Dixieme Art Tattoo Studio in Monaco, and I got my latest piece on September 12, 2022 by the insanely talented Marco Rapone. We still follow each other on IG, I would totally be his BFF if I lived in Monaco.
I mean, god willing, one day… It’s STUNNING.
Funny enough, I originally wanted to book another (French) artist who was know for these single needle works of art. But working with Marco was absolutely fate. He was the only artist that was Italian, and he completely understood and appreciated the phrase more than anyone else could have. Plus, he’s absolutely hilarious and we just had an amazing time with it all.
Anyway, “guardi le stelle” means “look at the stars” in Italian. If you know me, it’s shocking that I got an Italian phrase, I know… (very sarcastic here).
But, it actually has a very sacred meaning for me. This phrase is from the lyrics of Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma”, which is from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Turandot.
This fact alone actually isn’t why I got this tattoo, but adds another layer of meaning to it.
This is an opera my grandmother (dad’s mom) took our whole family to in Princeton, New Jersey as a kid, and it was an absolutely beautiful experience I’ve remembered fondly for years and years. Did I understand what the hell they were singing about and the storyline? Absolutely not.
But I loved getting dressed up, being there as a family, and I even remember the warmth of the theater. So, I like to think this is a little wink at her, too.
Here’s where the meaning really comes in, and it’s twofold:
- My dad would listen to Nessun Dorma on repeat. And I mean REPEAT. I remember going into our guest room, which was kind of his hangout room, and he would be watching this video of Pavarotti singing this song over and over multiple times. I mean, it does have a killer build up toward the end. The energy, power and soul he puts into it gives me absolute chills every time without fail. Sometimes even tears, especially now without dad here.
In fact, we used this song as our recessional once we were married (again) in Italy. Even though the DJ kind of blew out our ears accidentally, it totally set the scene and was quite the ending to a special moment like that.
- My mom would always tell me—even before she ever got sick, but especially toward the end—that she would always be with the stars. To look for the stars if I ever needed her, that she would be one with them. All I would need to do is look up.
That we’re connected through the cosmos, which is so much bigger than all of us. For so many years I was like, “yeah MAKY mom, thanks *eye roll*.” You know, typical things we think or say when we’re younger.
But let me tell you, that has taken on an entirely new meaning. I took that far more seriously when that was the only place I had to go to look for her when she died. I would give anything to look up there and see her. Her face, her smile. To feel connected by some power far larger than any of us could possibly imagine. Now, that’s what I do. I guardi le stelle when I think of them. Especially when I need them more than usual.
So, with all of that, I hope you enjoyed the backstories behind my tattoos! If you made it to the end, I truly appreciate you reading this and diving deeper into my experience and my story. As always, I’m grateful for you being here and for your time.
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