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My Turn: Son’s music makes for a lyrical tattoo

Robin Ames of Coram hangs out with her

Robin Ames of Coram hangs out with her son, Eric, of Boulder, Colorado, where he moved last fall. This photo was taken when he came to visit her last month. Credit: Robin Ames

I never considered getting a tattoo. I associated them with unsavory people who got into fistfights and/or Army vets who got inked to signify the pain and hardships endured in conflict.

As the years passed, I noticed many people sporting entire sleeves of colorful art. These were not gang members or military men and women. It’s more like college kids, checkout clerks at the grocery store or hairdressers.

Sure enough, my own daughter got tattooed a few years back. The design was a thigh-size teapot with a flower on it. She has now gotten several more tattoos. And then my son, Eric, a musician, began getting inked. The first (and most meaningful) tattoo depicted a ferocious lion grabbing a giant crab with its massive teeth. The tattoo signifies how my son, a Leo, went through chemo and radiation, and destroyed cancer (a crab, astrologically speaking) a few years ago.

This led me to my decision to finally get one. My son and I both admire a musician named Andrew McMahon, himself a leukemia survivor. Eric and I decided that we would both get something representing Andrew’s music, perhaps artwork from an album cover, or possibly song lyrics.

The more I thought about this, the more I wanted my son’s song lyrics tattooed on my body. One song, “Liberation,” contains a lyric that has brought me to tears many, many times. During the climax of the song, Eric sings, “Remember, hope’s never lost . . . give all you [expletive] got!”

Now this may not be politically correct, but when you hear your amazing, cancer-beating boy sing these words, it’s quite emotional. I called Timmy Tattoo in Huntington and spoke with Jesse, the guy Eric uses. I described how I wanted Andrew McMahon’s lyrics, but I also wanted Eric’s lyrics. I expressed concern about being a middle-age mom with “bad” words permanently inked on her body. What would people think? Jesse convinced me to come in for a consult, telling me that I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks, especially at my age.

So, on a rainy, raw February night in 2016, I ventured into Timmy Tattoo, and talked with Jesse and also Timmy, the owner. I told them about the song, which they Googled and played in the shop. We talked about fonts, body location, etc. Jesse filled Timmy in on Eric’s back story. Neither man thought my request was weird or gross.

Before I knew it, I had signed some paperwork and was lying on a table. I was actually doing this! I swore the guys to secrecy. I was never here, as far as Eric was concerned.

It took months for me to work up the courage to tell my son about the tattoo. I went from thinking he’d be thrilled to wondering if he would think I was nuts. Finally I broached the subject. I tearfully explained that, out of all the songwriters in the universe, I chose him and his lyrics. When I showed him the tattoo, he hugged me and said, “That’s such a mom thing to do!” I said, “Really?” I didn’t think most moms would have a certain word permanently inked on their torso, but OK.

We’re still thinking about the Andrew McMahon tattoo. The only thing holding me back right now is the pain factor. It was brutal. But every time I listen to Eric’s song, I wait for that particular line, and I think about my tattoo. It makes me very happy. Like my son, it is a daily inspiration for me.

Robin Ames,



YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email, or write to Act 2 Editor, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include name, address and phone numbers. Photos if available.

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