As we lay waiting for the ambulance to arrive, my mum told me four things:

She didn’t want to be put on a ventilator, she wanted to listen to her ‘bible verse a day’ podcast and Radio 4, the songs she wanted to be played at her funeral, and that it would be OK. 

We hugged and cried as Mum struggled to breathe because of coronavirus.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was left with little to show for our deep bond except for our love of cross stitch and our roman noses.

I decided that once she recovered, we should do something to mark our connection, and ultimately settled on getting similar tattoos.

The tattoo was to be a symbol of the value of the female relationships in my life; my mum, my nan, my sister.

My relationship with my mum has always been strong and I have always been adamant that she is my best friend.

The idea of losing her was something that, like countless others in this pandemic, I was forced to confront with no warning.

Luckily Mum went on to recover. It took months but other than a few lasting symptoms of long Covid, she is fine now.

She returned to university to study for her degree to become a therapist, and together we booked our first ever tattoos in September.

2020 might not seem like the ideal year to get a tattoo – but we wanted to mark the absolute bizarre experience of this year and I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Back in March, when the pandemic hit, my parents told me to come home to their house in Shropshire to ride out what would end up being a five-month lockdown.

The day after I arrived, I started exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. I offered to isolate myself in my childhood bedroom to keep my parents safe but they batted off my fears and my mum said: ‘We rise and fall together.’

My dad and I stayed apart so he could do shop runs, and my mum decided to take care of me. 

I started to get stronger but Mum got sicker. Days melted into one another and the reality that she could die set in. I was petrified. 

Within days, Mum was having to plot her trips to the bathroom because if she ‘wasted’ (her words) the energy on traversing those 35 feet when she didn’t really need it, she ‘wouldn’t have the energy or breath to get there when it mattered’.

When my dad and I realised the gravity of the situation we pressured her to call 111, who quickly sent an ambulance.

Paramedics were able to treat her at home and luckily, she didn’t have to go to hospital.

It took months but we supported each other and slowly recovered.

By May, we were back to the comparably enjoyable monotony of lockdown, with Netflix exhausted and nothing else to do, we talked about anything and everything.

And in these hours of aimless babbling, tattoos came up.

I’d wanted one in my teenage years but my parents (quite rightly) objected to my desire to rebel through feathers and infinity symbols.

Now, my mum was no longer so vehemently protesting. In fact, she was open to the idea of getting one, too.

I already had a list in the corners of my mind of what I wanted, and I came to my mum with a concept: a gardenia for my nan, her mum. Simple, elegant, timeless and personal.

We managed to find an appointment after the first lockdown lifted with Amanda Rodriguez at Three Kings Tattoo’s new studio in Deptford. 

Despite the pandemic, the whole experience felt so involved. Before the day, Amanda set up a Zoom call to answer any questions we had and to walk us through the process.

For the first time since the year began, I saw my mum visibly excited and looking forward to the future.

Tattoo studios are subject to Covid-19 restrictions but that didn’t stop the experience from being any less incredible. Rules state that you must attend your tattoo appointment alone, but as were in the same bubble and had booked Amanda out for the whole day no restrictions were actually broken.

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We could have waited until the vaccine rolled out and celebrated getting through this all then, but I actually think it’s kind of perfect that we got inked in 2020.

I was able to embark on an adventure with my best friend instead of another day of working from home, dodging the crowds for our state-mandated exercise and daydreaming about a point, hopefully in the near future, where we can be ‘normal’ again.

In a year like this, it’s still important to mark the special people and moments – don’t wait until this is over.

Booking Amanda to tattoo us felt like such an impulse decision but it also turned into an incredible and empowering session.

She really took us in, learned about what we liked, what we didn’t and about our lives, and then created two genuinely beautiful pieces of art that we both cannot stop bragging about.

I look at all of the things that happened this year; pandemic, recession, faltering mental health, family bereavement, and I think, ‘Christ, what a s**t show’.

But now at least, I have something that shines a little light in the darkness. 

Amanda Rodriguez is the owner of Three Kings in Deptford, which opened its doors earlier this year after the success of the iconic brand’s other locations in New York, Brooklyn, Long Island and LA. You can find out more about the studio and find their merch here.

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