Maria : A Love Story With Tattoos

I have a request.

I’ve been fascinated by tattoos for a long while. I’ve been drawing on my skin for years with gel pens, Crayolas, Sharpies—anything that could leave a decent mark. I’ve spent cumulative hours digging into my skin with cheap Bics and ballpoints, trying to eke out some sort of shape.

My father laughed when my third grade teacher—a Mrs. Woodard, a towering woman with third-degree burns on her leg—told me that gel pens caused warts, and I scrubbed my arms raw, determined to purge the treacherous flowers, cats, and ladybirds.

He’s not around anymore, but I can remember the sounds that he made. I remember sitting in a classroom, bored out of my mind, and hearing a strong, jaunty whistle and the sound of jangling keys. I remember the pitch difference in gait that told me that’s not Coach. I would tug on the nearest available sleeve and whisper, “That’s my daddy!”

And I would be right.

The thing I rarely recall but remember most strongly is the way that he sang. My father had a deep voice—I couldn’t tell you his range exactly, because when he spoke it was higher, lighter. It was rich and perfect and he could do anything he wanted, but he chose to talk to me, to sing to me.

He had a strong voice, and he sang from his belly. He never shook, never gave, never lowered his volume.

He had a voice like John Henry, and he used to sing Mariah.

Or “They Call the Wind Maria”. It was my secret favorite. I got into a small argument with my middle school choral director when he presented the piece and pronounced the name, “Muh-ree-uh.” The proper name just seemed too important.

In a 1947 introduction to the reprint of George Rippey Stewart’s novel Storm, he insisted, “The soft Spanish pronunciation is fine for some heroines, but our Maria here is too big for any man to embrace and much too boisterous…/so put the accent on the second syllable, and pronounce it ‘rye’.”

“Away out here they got a name
For rain and wind and fire
The rain is Tess, the fire Joe,
And they call the wind Maria.

Maria blows the stars around
And sends the clouds a’flyin’
Maria makes the mountains sound
Like folks were up there dying.

They call the wind Maria.”

Every time I think of the song, every time it creeps back into my head, I can hear him. I can hear my daddy singing in my head—and that is the single most precious thing to me.

I want it in my skin.

I want to think of it so much more than I do, because that sound is hope to me. I don’t remember it enough.

I don’t know how I want it to look—but I want to love it.

I need to see designs, options—

I need it to be perfect for both of us.

Does anyone know how?

I’d love to see designs from my friends, but I don’t know how to express exactly how much this means to me.

Any ideas?

Show me what you’ve got. I might sing it for life.


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