The hula girltattoo memory |

The hula girltattoo memory

It’s a common practice now, but when I was a kid, especially a kid growing up in Akron, Ohio, it was exotic. It was so strange that the memory eventually locked itself into a part of my brain and has stuck all these years.

The reason I bring it up at all is my friend Jane, during a pause between sips at a local watering hole, pulled up her pant leg to show off one of her tattoos – which is no big deal because tattoos are as commonplace today as High Country traffic jams caused by cars sporting Texas license plates.

Heck, even my Mom’s gone under the buzzing needle.

The thing about Jane’s tattoos, however, is every image, every drop of ink, symbolizes some sort of deeper meaning in her life.

The fish on her leg, the Chinese symbol on her shoulder and the ring of images on her ankle all represent special moments or mementos in her life.

Like Jane, many people feel if they are going to decorate their bodies, then the decoration should serve some spiritual purpose. It should somehow help to expand the soul.

I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but a deeper meaning is for deeper people. I don’t need some sort of illustrated spirituality on my body. No. What I want tattooed on my arm, in just the right spot, is a girl dressed in a grass skirt, so when I clench my fist she dances the hula.

Why I want this scantily clad beauty on my arm is simple. During my formative years, I had an uncle who had just such a tattoo on his arm, and to this young, impressionable mind, it was the coolest thing since the Brady Bunch.

Anytime we’d visit my Mom’s family in Pennsylvania, we’d always make a side trip to see my Uncle Lebro and Aunt Wilma. And it wouldn’t take long for us kids to ask – after the normal family chatter was over – to see my Uncle Lebro’s tattoo, the same tattoo he brought back from the South Pacific at the end of World War II.

Then, as we waited in giggly anticipation, he would roll up his sleeve, expose a forearm cabled with muscle from years of hard work, and, like some famous Broadway producer, he would expose us to the hula girl.

God, it was better than a magic trick.

But the show didn’t stop there. While we watched, eyes glazed over with one part fascination, one part young lust (I will admit that I did have a small crush on the woman on my Uncle’s arm) my Uncle would make her dance. By clenching and unclenching his fist, he could make the girl wiggle her hips.

I had never before seen anything so amazing. Throw in the fact my father thought tattoos, and especially this one, were just plain wrong, and it made it all the more special.

Over the years, I thought long and hard – which doesn’t come easy for me – about how I’ve become the person I see in the mirror each morning, and I know for a fact many of my personality traits and my likes and dislikes didn’t come from my father or mother.

I’m sure somewhere down the short road that is childhood, I picked up my more unusual quirks from my uncles. It was my uncles who first showed me there are different people in the world, and the world is a much better place because of this one simple fact.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always tried to be the exotic uncle for my nephew. I’ve always strived to live in amazing places, and I’ve worked hard gathering wondrous stories in the hope that down the line, I just might start a hula dance of imagination in my nephew.

So someday, when my wife isn’t looking, I might just disappear for a few hours and then come back with a girl on my arm. The girl, however, will be made of ink.

I just wonder if a skin artist can make the girl strongly resemble my wife.

Columnist Andrew Gmerek appears tattoed into this space every Friday with permanent ink.

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