One of the most heartbreaking moments of 2020 was telling my 21-year-old daughter, Desiray, that she needed to return home from England after the prime minister’s call for Canadians abroad to return home in March. She was there in the final days of her law degree, and I knew she would have to complete examinations online at home and likely not attend her commencement ceremony. It may seem trivial, but knowing that she would have to leave her boyfriend behind was painful. Would my husband and I have survived a long-distance relationship in our early days? I doubt it. Knowing me, I would have moved on, completely changing the trajectory of the last 22 years of my life.
As weeks turned into months of lockdown after lockdown, I knew the chances of her returning to the UK were dwindling, and there was nothing I could do about it. I am her mother. I am supposed to protect her from heartbreak. But a global pandemic was forcing a decision that did not have any alternatives. She needed to stay home.
So when Desiray asked me to get a second tattoo together (we got our first ones together last year), I couldn’t say no. To be clear, after the pain of the first tattoo, I vowed to never get another one. But as a mum (and someone who desperately wants to win the Parent of the Year award just once in her lifetime), I acquiesced.
I carefully designed a tattoo that would depict the resilience that guided me through 2020: a lotus flower, which blooms above the water but has roots firmly planted in the soil, followed by the French phrase, “Elle n’a peur de rien” — She is fearless. The placement of the art would need to encapsulate that brilliance of that resilience. I decided to position the lotus flower behind my right ear and the phrase following down my neck in delicate calligraphy. It was perfect. Classy enough to resemble a dangling earring and powerful enough to express the badass woman and mum I am.
As I sat in the parlour waiting for Desiray to complete her tattoo, I felt guilty. We were about to go into a province-wide lockdown after Christmas and days away from learning that the new strain of COVID-19 had invaded Canada. As a family, we committed to staying home, social-distancing, and wearing masks. Getting a tattoo was far from essential and therefore an unnecessary excursion outside of the house. But when I looked at my daughter, I just wanted that moment with her. A moment she would never forget. Chatting and laughing, as if we were not in masks or a pandemic. A moment of happiness in the most uncertain of times.
After we got home, I waited a couple of days to post pictures of the tattoo, fearing that my social media followers would criticise me for venturing outside for something so ridiculous. When I finally had the courage to post, the response was immediate. People loved it. I felt buoyed by the response and the fact that the tattoo was a hit. Celina the badass, continuing to do badass things.
Bring on 2021. Elle n’a peur de rien. pic.twitter.com/ZN9JsgWSNC
— Celina Caesar-Chavannes (@iamcelinacc) December 24, 2020
The next day, I opened Twitter to see a familiar encircled blue number one on the envelope signifying I received a direct message. DMs always make me nervous. What does someone need to tell me privately on Twitter that they cannot post in public? It was a message from a friend named Allen, who I hadn’t heard from in a while: “Wanted to quickly let you know that the artist accidentally inverted the “i” and “e” in “rien,” writing instead “rein,” meaning “kidney,” as you would know. Figured I’d flag for you.”
THE FUCK!!! I looked at my post, looked at my neck, looked at my post again, then looked at my neck. She has no fear of kidneys. I have no fear of kidneys. For a moment, I panicked about the length of time required before I could change the message. It was an easy fix. Put a dot on top of the “e” and change the “i” to an “e.” Not a problem. And then it clicked, and I laughed: What a perfect tattoo to depict the total fuck up 2020 has been.
I stood in front of the mirror and laughed at the badass woman who was not afraid of a kidney. What else can we do? We survived a year that has been kicking our ass from day one. We survived with health and joy and love (perhaps distant, but love nonetheless). We survived. And so we can take a moment to laugh at the year that was, our mistakes, and ourselves, knowing that the year was no more perfect than we are, but we survived it.
I have decided not to change the tattoo any time soon. I will keep it. So bring on 2021 because I am an imperfect badass who does not fear kidneys. And I have the tattoo to prove it.
Celina Caesar-Chavannes’s memoir, Can You Hear Me Now?, is available February 2. Preorder on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter @iamcelinacc.
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