On Airplane(s)

posted in: Day In The Life 19
Airplane signs are universal. Image: Wikipedia.



Years ago, I got a tattoo of an airplane on my wrist. It wasn’t an impulsive decision; I had wanted this tattoo for years. One day I did it.

Explaining a tattoo is tricky. If your explanation goes no deeper than “I was drunk in the Bahamas!” or “Somebody dared me,” it’s perhaps best not to explain.

But if the opposite is true, if your tattoo holds deep literal or symbolic meaning in your life/psyche, you’re also in a tough position. How do you explain in passing the varied, layered, complicated feelings that go into the desire to permanently mark something on your body? And why try? For people who don’t have tattoos — certainly those who are actively anti-tattoo — no explanation will be enough, however compelling.

Here’s what I’ll say about my airplane.

Something happens to me when I’m in an airplane. Something good. I sit still, for one thing. I’m stuck, so it’s easy to focus. Whatever I’m writing, at 35,000 feet, it tends to go well. But my love for airplanes isn’t just because I’m extra productive in my sky office; I’m romanced by the very existence of an airplane. Call me country, but the fact of flying amazes and delights me, every time, still. We’re flying? Like … like birds? No, no, it’s not possible.

But of course it is possible and I do it a lot.

I’m on a plane right now, in fact. I’m headed to Portland, headed to Quiltfolk. There’s a lot to do: Spring Quilt Market starts tomorrow, but being at the big show is just the beginning of the next five days. Mike and I are making serious moves at Quiltfolk; now that I’m done with school, prepare to watch more things move even faster.

So why am I on about the tattoo? That tattoo, by the way, that I regretted almost immediately and am now getting removed?

Well, I’m flying for this work trip and I’m on this plane, and I’m writing, and it’s the same. I feel happy, focused, right with the world, somehow. Except that this plane ride is totally different. I’m not flying to a gig. I don’t have quilts with me, I don’t have syllabi to hand out or patchwork to demonstrate once I get to where I’m going. I’ve gone to Market for years, but this is my first time with Quiltfolk, and that means I’m not pitching companies to buy ads for a web series or a magazine, like I did with Quilty, because Quiltfolk, like PaperGirl, doesn’t do ads. And I’m not in grad school anymore. I’m not a student anymore. I’m a … person?

The airplanes don’t really change. The tattoos don’t change. We change.

19 Responses

  1. Bonnie
    | Reply

    In my humble opinion, keep the tattoo. It will always be with you even if you remove it. Fly safely Mary!

  2. Karen
    | Reply

    Mar! See you in Portland.

  3. Martha Youstra
    | Reply

    You are so right. People do change. Who would think at 77 years old I now have three to four years quilting experience, thanks to you, your mom and other’s like you who have taught me so much.
    Planes, Oh YES, since I was a child I wanted to ride on the wing, soar like an eagle wearing a captains suit. I was too short to be a flight attendant, too broke to get my pilot license.
    Yes, taking off, flying above the clouds and the rush from the landing are built into my soul.
    Thank you Mary for sharing this story.
    May your flights always be safe and fun.

  4. Debbie
    | Reply

    I have to say I agree with Bonnie. Keep the tattoo! It is part of your journey.

  5. Loreen
    | Reply

    Change the tattoo into a soaring eagle!

  6. Pamela
    | Reply

    Flying is a wonderful experience. I love it myself. Have not been on a plane to go anywhere in a long time, but, maybe this year, to see an old college friend, in a state I’ve never visited before. Definitely looking forward to it. Enjoy your travels. Maybe we’ll run into one another in Houston at the Quilt Festival this year. Happy jet trails!

  7. Barbara
    | Reply

    Mary, congratulations on your Master’s degree. Fly safely, be happy.

  8. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    I agree with Bonnie.

  9. Ivy
    | Reply

    Your writing is poetic, whimsical … I love it. I could read a whole book of it …
    I would love to see the tattoo before you get it removed.
    I am surrounded by tattooed people. My kids, my significant other, but while there are many tattoos I dream of getting, I just haven’t been able to commit to permanently inking my skin.
    I like what Bonnie said!

    • Ivy
      | Reply

      Oh and my bestie–she’s covered in tats! Reminding her of every place she’s ever lived! And more! <3

  10. Carol Bank
    | Reply

    Keep the tattoo! Still has meaning for you.

  11. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    I still remember my first flight, a little prop jet from Davenport IA to MIlwakee WI to visit my soon to be fiancée at a different university. Think that was also my first night in a hotel…shhh.

  12. Georgia O'Neal
    | Reply

    KEEP THE TATTOO, MARY You love flying – you are comfortable in a plane – it is a part of your life that should not be erased ! I am 70 and thinking about what I want for my next one – I already have 2 and they mean something !

  13. liz
    | Reply

    Just got my first copy of Quiltfolk love it : ) !!

  14. Bobbi Penniman
    | Reply

    Keep the tattoo. It’s part of you. It’s a reminder of how far you have flown, and what is yet ahead.

  15. Kathlene L
    | Reply

    At the risk of sounding like a schmaltsy song, you’ve only just begun!

  16. Bob Collis
    | Reply

    I saw the end of something black on your wrist, in one of your pictures, and wondered if it was a tattoo.
    Mystery solved…
    Enjoy Portland! I’m in Tigard; west of Port.

  17. Kathie Hood
    | Reply

    You are the leader of the new generation. Let them sell to you the new idea theories and implements while all the while looking for the instruments of yore that made our forerunners amazing quilts without all the technical assists. When I see the old quilts I remember they were made with pricked fingers and thimbles and loads of love.

  18. Colleen
    | Reply

    Tattoo…..your body your choice
    I totally agree about change so much change and it is good a mothers love is both constant and changing
    Me I’ll most likely never tattoo my body my mother once was going to have my fathers military service # tattooed on the bottoms of her children (me) as he was to be sent to Turkey (military with family) and my mother (a true naive country girl) was sure her children would be “taken” “lost” and only be found safe if they were “tattooed” to be reunited with her.
    Me I am a what if

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