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Queen, Grace & Glory

The short story of that week in August last year is: I got a tattoo and I saw a band for the first time that I’ve followed since I was 12 years old.

Maybe for some people that is an average week in their life. But for me those two adventures were definitely worthy of my #50for50 list.

Even better was getting to have both experiences with my sister, Wendy Oakley.

Wendy and I are four years apart. We don’t look alike because Daddy is her biological dad and my stepdad. So she ended up 3 inches taller despite being the younger sister. I am an extrovert and she is an introvert. I’m tempted by chocolate cake and she’d rather have cheeto’s.

I’m openly competitive and an over achiever. She’s more subtle about how she outdoes me.

Unlike the new generation of Queen fans after The Bohemian Rhapsody movie, Wendy and I have been die hard fans since childhood.

Although we were too young to appreciate the early years of Queen, Wendy and I tried to catch up. It started with my first Queen Greatest Hits (circa 1981) at age 12 on LP and a turntable of my own. Prior to this our source of music was my mother’s console stereo – you know the one that looked like a piece of furniture but had a turntable in the top and speakers built in below. Wendy and I spent hours playing both sides repeatedly.

Of course she’s knows every lyric to every song (and I mean that Queen ever recorded, not just the Greatest Hits) because when it comes to music she’s always got me beat.

And years back she shocked the whole family by being the first to get a tattoo. So she definitely got the jump on me there. As a matter of fact in the time its taken me to decide to finally get one she’d added two more.


For almost a decade I have wanted a tattoo. Maybe its peer pressure since many of my closest friends (not just my awesome sister) have them. I put it off all these years however because I wanted to wait and make sure my ONE tattoo was going to have so much meaning, I’d brave the needle for it.

It only made sense when I decided to put getting a tattoo on my #50for50 that I would ask if she’d like to come with me. She agreed and said she’d be happy to get another while she was there.

Then we learned that Queen was coming on their world tour with Adam Lambert as lead singer to play Nashville, TN. Wendy’s friend Marsha Levine worked some ticket magic and we were able to snag great seats for the three of us.

Seeing Queen would be a definite #50for50 list item since I have never been able to catch them in concert. Wendy had seen them some years back with Paul Rogers, because she’s of course the bigger fan. So much so that she decided to get the Queen crest as a tattoo on her calf before the concert.

The plan then became for us to do both the tattoo and the concert the same week in August. Soon Wendy had arrangements for us with the extremely talented Milton Chavez, owner of Grace and Glory in Murfreesboro, TN.

My final decision on what tattoo to get was also not that hard after all. I decided what I wanted to get but had to keep it a secret from my mother for 8 months since it was partly in homage to her.

When August finally rolled around it had been a wild and crazy summer already of heartbreak, jumping out of an airplane and competing in my sprint triathlon.

Getting time to hang out with my family and friends in Nashville while I also checked off two more boxes on the list was most welcome.

The day of my tattoo came and as I was getting ready that morning I asked my mother if she wanted to know what I was going to get. She said no she’d just wait and be surprised.

Then I asked if she wanted to come along with Wendy and I to the tattoo studio. I wasn’t sure if she’d be bored waiting as we were using the same artist as it would be a long time for him to do both. She perked up immediately and said she’d be happy to go.

I drove to Wendy’s and she was amazed to see Momma in the car. Momma had never been to a tattoo studio with her.

Once we arrived at the studio, Milt asked which of us wanted to go first and I stood immediately. I was scared I’d chicken out once I started hearing the tattoo needles humming along. Neither Wendy nor Momma knew how scared I was that I was going to cry the whole time.

Milt showed me the transfer as I slipped off the shirt I had over my tank top. Its perfect I said, while I silently gulped at how much bigger it was in real life. All that had to be inked in black and then filled in with color?

I didn’t let my panic show and we discussed the placement on my right shoulder far enough over be able to wear sleeveless blouses without much showing. He applied the transfer then directed me to go check it in the mirror near the front of the waiting area.

“Momma, do you want to see it now before I get the ink started?” I asked. She said, “I guess.” And I turned so she could see the outline. I saw her eyes fill a bit with tears because she knew exactly what my tattoo meant.

At 22 years old I had graduated college and only managed to find a retail sales manager job, was living at home when I found out I was pregnant.

My military boyfriend I was so in love with already had more than one child and I still failed to take enough precautions. Or run while I had the chance. My mother knew I had not been sure if I ever wanted children and especially wasn’t ready for a child right then.

She knew I felt I’d possibly made a mistake that would cost me all of my dreams. Which is why she gifted me “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

The story of “You” and the journey of life and its challenges touched my heart. The gift encouraged me that even though I was going to be a mother before I knew I wanted to be, I had still had places to go.

As I turned 50 I also wanted that reminder I had places left to go. But on the deeper level it was honoring a mother who had never judged me even when I felt like I failed her. It was also to show the love I had to become a mother when I was afraid to be. My daughter Alex is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Then it was time to get inked. I lay still and felt the sting and was relieved it was short and as he moved didn’t get unbearable. If he sensed me starting to stiffen when it seemed sharper or went longer into shading, he’d stop and wipe it down. I know he had to wipe off the blood occasionally anyway but I could tell he also knew when to let off a few seconds to let me adjust.

Outlining didn’t last as long as I’d feared then it was time to pick the colors for the tattoo. I asked for pastels that were a bit subdued so they might appear vintage. We discussed what colors for what parts and then I was lying back down again so he could ink it in.

There were a few minutes near my shoulder blade where a lot of color needed to be applied that seemed to last much longer. I squeezed my eyes tight and tried to stay relaxed and very still. Again he stopped to wipe as I am sure he knew it was tender. It was soon over and Wendy took her turn getting the Queen’s crest in black outline on her calf.

I have to admit her tattoo turned out gorgeous as well.

Tattoos done, we went out for a late lunch. I had to mention to Wendy that I didn’t think any of her tattoos had brought a tear of joy to Momma’s eyes.

My momma, Wendy, me and TN flag

Because I am competitive after all.

Two days later I headed to Wendy’s to drop my car. She and I were riding with my brother in law, Chris to pick up Marsha and her boyfriend Pepper. The guys were going honky-tonking in downtown Nashville while we attended the concert at Bridgestone Arena.

When we got there Marsha presented us with matching official Queen t-shirts. And a cocktail. Wendy may be an introvert but she also has great friends.

In addition to scoring us great seats, Marsha had also sprung for VIP access to the club floor so we could grab drinks and snacks before the show. We didn’t anticipate the traffic and confusing check in so we didn’t have a lot of time before the show. The food was good and so were the drinks even if we rushed through it all to get to our seats.

I wish I could tell you the set list. I am sure Wendy could recite it even now. However I will just assure you hearing Brian May and Roger Taylor live was mind blowing. Adam Lambert was fabulous and the rest of the musicians accompanying them were all stellar.

The set and light show itself was stellar and included some planets exploding at some point. Brian being an astrophysicist might have had some influence on the visualizations. I have never seen any concert with that level of special effects.

The only song I know made me cry was “Who Wants to Live Forever”, with Brian singing and the wonders of technology to have Freddie sing his parts too. It reminded me how much I regretted having missed seeing Freddie back in the day. At least I was happy to have seen Brian and Roger while they both are still musically kicking ass.

Its also awesome I got to see the concert with my sister. It didn’t even bug me that she recognized ever song they played and I didn’t. After all I know when to concede she’s simply the bigger fan.

More than just checking off two of my #50for50, Wendy shared two wonderful adventures in one week’s time. Because that is the kind of sister she is.

One comment on “Queen, Grace & Glory

  1. Marshs says:

    This is great!!!


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