Big birthdays can be exciting, challenging, and sometimes even life changing. As WGN's Ana Belaval reports, a Chicago woman decided to use one of her big birthdays to get even more comfortable in her own skin.
"If you see me fully covered, I look like a sweet little old lady, which I am NOT!" Helen Reichert Lambin has lived in Edgewater most of her life.
Three-and-a-half years ago, the girl who grew up in small town Iowa and spent time in a convent, was approaching a big birthday, and found herself a little down. "I'm going to be old and wrinkled anyway with or without tattoos." Her three children and only grandchild couldn't be more proud.
Ana asks Helen's daughter Rosemary how many tattoos she has. "I have 4." "4. And your mother has 50!" "Ya, I know she got me beat long ago." Joe and Jeanne call the tattoos just Mom being Mom. "This is not like something where suddenly at the age of 75 her personality suddenly took a turn in another direction. I thought the sleeves would be fantastic to kind of integrate the design." And I just also liked the idea of having my mom with sleeves you know. This is an expression of her love for us partly."
Tattoos translate to motherly love? Helen gives us a tour of her body art."I started with this. (points to her peace daisy) And then the dolphins because we swam with dolphins in Mexico Jeanne and I. And then of course I had to have a tattoo for Joe so that was the B flat below middle C." Each tattoo is well researched, never offensive, and expresses who and what Helen Lambin cares about. "I love Curious George."
She keeps a journal of each tattoo. As her book fills up, so do her arms and now legs. "If I had thought about it in advance, cause I have chubby legs, I could have done Van Gogh's starry night." The pink rabbit is for her beloved husband Henry, a psychologist who died suddenly in 1996. They both loved lighthouses. "You can't prevent growing old, you can't prevent dying. But, you can do things that make it more fun."
The Chicago Tattooing and Body Piercing Company is the oldest tattoo shop in Chicago. "They do nice work here." You must have valid I.D to enter. Does an AARP card suffice? "Helen comes in like every 2-3 weeks," says tattoo artist David McNair. No one touches her now 78-year-old-skin except her ink master. They chat as she's getting her next tattoo. "It looks a lot different with the vines. It kinda ties everything together," says David though he's not wild about her next idea. "She had mentioned possibly getting something on her neck and I don't know if I think that's a great idea. That's just maybe my prejudice." Helen tells Dave, "This is awful, but sometimes while I'm getting one I'm thinking of the next one."
Helen's grandaughter Jessica who today has blue green hair and a lip piercing was a little surprised by her Grandmother's new hobby. "I thought one was gonna be it. And when she started getting a lot more I was like wow! But I've heard that tattoos are addicting." Jessica say tattoos can also be icebreakers. "One of my friends came over to my house one time and she felt very uncomfortable just because my family is very religious. Then I walked into your living room and your grandma's lookin' like she's about to jump on a Harley." Helen believes she's meeting people she might not have. "Bobby, how are you?" She does get the occasional stare.
But most reactions are positive. "Keep on rockin Grandma- (laughs),that was one of my favorites. Would I get a Botox face and the rest of me is going to be falling apart? That's ridiculous. This is me." "There you go Helen- oh good!" "There's lots of things at this age that I would have regrets for. Anything I did that would hurt somebody or thoughtless or something I shouldn't have done, should have done. But the tattoos hell no!"
As she hugs Dave good-bye, she promises she'll be back. "Take care kiddo." I'll be in touch for the next one." Helen's children are so supportive, they just purchased the domain name "grannyink.com." She may use it for tattoo research or consulting, or simply to share her opinions. Feel free to submit photos of your tattoos to our photo gallery. And click here for more information about Helen's favorite tattoo shop.
Wonder what she'll do for the big 8-0!?
For more information, log on to http://chicagotattoo.com/home.html