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My Grandma's Tattoo

3 generations discover an indelible family anchor

Editor's note: Grandma's Tattoo was awarded Best Video Program (Online) at the 2011 min Editorial and Design Awards in New York.

In the Harple family, coordinating a family gathering is akin to planning a military operation. Mom, dad and their five children are scattered from Amsterdam to London to Washington to New England. But an impromptu e-mail request from daughter Laurel to her two sisters sparked an unusual family outing: What if the women got a small tattoo of an anchor, each on different places of their bodies, to symbolize the family's deep connection to sailing?

After all, the young women had grown up surrounded by avid sailors. Their parents, Caren and Dan, had met as teenagers through sailing, and maternal grandparents Phyllis and Bob enjoyed sailing throughout their marriage.  Also, two of their uncles are world-class sailors.

Earlier this year, when grandma Phyllis noticed the tattoo of an anchor on her daughter Caren's foot, her response was exactly opposite of what Caren had expected. "I really like that. I'm going to get it," she simply said. Caren knew her mother was sentimental about the sea, but certainly never thought she'd approve of body art, much less be inspired to get her own tattoo. She's a proper New England woman, after all.

Katrina, the youngest sister, plans to get her tattoo once she turns 18. "I'm going to get it with all of my sisters, but I think it really doesn't matter when I'm going to get it ... it's the significance."