Basil had felt a little overwhelmed at work. Feeling a little under the weather the night before, he hardly had a good night’s rest. Tired from the lack of rest, Basil had made it through the morning with flying colors but he slowly began to run out of juice as the afternoon waned on and opted out of staying late for work to see the playoffs. Maybe Basil would be healthier and sharper morning and deliver wonderfully insightful financial reports tomorrow.
Elated to be back home among those whom he loved and adored, Basil walked through the door glad to have finally made it to his refuge from the hurly burly of the work world. Despite being ill, Basil dutifully helped Trudy prepare seven fantastic chicken pot pies with sides of legumes, and took extraordinary pride in setting a near perfect table.
Margo somberly came down for dinner with her friend Winifred. Basil said a quick prayer on the food asking for the usual health and strength while acknowldeging his wife’s effort at preparing dinner. This was not his most heartfelt prayer but its was functional. Margo was unusually quiet without being moody and it made the dinner start off awkward. Finally, Margo blurted out, “Dad, I have something to tell you.”
“Good gravy”, thought Basil, “It’s happening, ‘the pregnancy announcement’. Be strong. Be supportive. And, don’t show your disappointment.”
“Dad, Winnie and I went and got tattoos today and I wanted to tell because I don’t want to hide it from you or have you hear about it from someone else in the family.”
Trudy who had been told earlier in the day was watching Basil intently trying to figure out what side of Basil would unpredictably come out. Basil sighed with effort as if a stone was on his chest. “Sooo, where did you get this tattoo?”
Margo replied, “I got it at Satisfied Ink.”
Basil retorted, “No, I mean where on your body did you get your tattoo?”
“I got it on my arm”
“Let me see it”, Basil calmly requested.
Margo slowly rolled up her sleeve and pulled it up over her shoulder and there it was a tattoo of two monarch butterflies with trailing stars and underneath the butterflies it said ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’.
If there was anything Basil had thought he had learned over the past couple of years it was to not say anything in moments like this and make things dramatically worse. So he gave his patented line as of late, one he seemed to have used several times over the last few years:
“Margo, you know how I feel about this. I don’t agree, but I don’t want to spoil your visit. So let’s not talk about it anymore,” Basil said stoically and unconvincingly to everyone at the table.
But, Margo and Trudy knew that in the next few hours or in the next few days, that Basil was going to transform himself into Dr. Diatribe. Dinner passed awkwardly but amicably as they talked about Margo’s and Winifred’s classes at Swarthmore, although the girls avoided talking about their LGBT history class just to give Basil a break and avoid sending him over for the night.
That night, Margo indulged her Dad, and chose the Sound of Music as the evening’s movie and pretended to be interested. Smartly choosing her questions about the history of the movie. Basil knew what she was doing but wanted to enjoy his time with his daughter and put on one of his better acting jobs and somehow managed to blocked out, for the time being, all the questions parents have when their children reject one of their strongly held beliefs.
Later on that night, as Basil lay in bed, and he kept pondering on how to convince Margo that this was a big mistake. “Had I not on countless occasions taught her that our bodies are gifts from God? Had I not taught her that your body was just as important as your spirit? That the body was the house and the temple of your spirit and getting a tattoo was no different than tagging a beautiful building and structure with graffiti and it takes away from rather than adds value to that person’s personality.
Basil could not imagine his own blood resisting such simple and powerful logic, especially given the fun and innovative ways he had delivered these lessons during their childhood. The thoughts kept on streaming, preventing Basil from commencing any night-time dreaming.
“I never understood tattooing,” he thought, “I missed that fad, but if I were to get a tattoo I’d get the Stray Cat Tattoo, but even at that, if I wanted to identify myself with something I’d buy a T-shirt only so I wasn’t identified with something I thought was cool on one random passing day when I was eighteen–not my best years, not the years I would consider my wisest.”
Basil’s mind kept racing. “Yes, I understand it is an art form, but as an art form it is on the same level as a bored kid’s doodling on a folder or a desk or a textbook in school. And, at the end of the day, it still looks like someone took a permanent marker and drew on themselves and then for good measure rubbed dirt on it. It always looks like cheap pop art, like the art you’d see on a Winnebago or Chevy Van with wizards, wolves, large cats or planets, but on a lower level because the colors always end up looking listless and unclean. Truth be told, the human skin is not a great canvas for colorful and vibrant art. Fads do really make people look stupid, but the problem with a tattoo is the stupidity is permanently stained on one’s body.”
This made Basil recall a story he had once heard about a prisoner who gotten a homemade tattoo in prison. The prisoner had requested the popular tattoo “Mama Tried” from the title of a famous Merle Haggard song on his neck, but instead he mistakenly got the words “Mama Tired” tattooed on his neck. In his mind, Basil chuckled at this.
In retrospect, Basil had to admit, when most of us are young, our insecurities and our almost desperate need to differentiate ourselves externally makes us easy prey to fads and fashion that at the time seem like liberating acts of saucy and sophisticated rebellion or, at least an make us feel part of a tribe of like-minded souls, all eagerly trying to make the same universally modern statement ‘I am different, just like everyone else.’
Basil looked at the clock at it now said 2AM. Basil tried to go to sleep, but his mind had been stirred and now was madly spinning out thoughts and arguments he could use to convince Margo of her mistake and cause her to recognize and honor her father’s profound sagacity. Did Margo not remember his brilliant lecture, lecture #46, the lecture he had informally titled ‘Tattoos and Personality: It’s what’s on the Inside that Counts’. Basil could still remember when and where it was given, why couldn’t Margo recall it?
Basil woke up to the smell of Trudy cooking her famous pumpkin spice pancakes and bacon. Basil was trying to think if something special was going on since Trudy rarely cooked breakfast and he remembered Margo and Winifred were leaving today to go back to Swarthmore. He jumped out of bed and put on his pants and his baseball hat and rushed downstairs. When he got to the bottom of the stairs he had realized he had forgot his shirt and rushed back up to cover up his portly middle aged torso. Downstairs again, he saw that Margo and Winifred had their bags at the door and where half way through their breakfast when Basil sat down. Basil talked about an idea he had for making a pumpkin pie with a half twist of chutney and everyone chimed in that it was a very good idea and then shared their ideas for different types of pies they had been thinking of. The conversation turned animated when Margo proposed making a fish pie with cranberry sauce and thyme. And then it was time for Margo and Winifred to go. Hugs and laughter were exchanged and the two girls were off.
And Basil was momentarily proud that they had left on such a positive note and that he had not spoiled the good spirit of their visit with a tirade about tattoos, even though he had so many brilliant insights all through the night. For once, he held his tongue and it felt good. And it was because somewhere around 4AM that previous night, Basil’s agitated mind finally settled down and he made peace with the Spirit of Christ and let the wisdom of the ages quietly withstand another varied assault from the world’s whimsical and vain fads and fashions that humanity has been putting on since they first discovered their own nakedness and separation in the Garden so long ago.