Toby Dawn’s Mom Tattoos
Back when tattoos were less prevalent, cartoons often stereotyped the biggest, toughest guys around as having a big Mom tattoo on their biceps. The implication, of course, was that even the roughest men are momma’s boys at heart, and I guess it’s true, especially around Mother’s Day. No one, however, is a bigger momma’s boy than my lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre. He has two such tattoos, one on each arm. And while his muscles do not impress anyone other than him, the tattoos cannot easily be forgotten. Something about how those bright colors complement his freckled arms.
When Toby Dawn gets truly riled up, he is known to rip off his shirt and bow up like a banty rooster. He did this the first time I met him in third grade in protest of a dodgeball I threw at his head. After the second ball to the head, he pulled out his signature move of pumping his arms up and down and kissing his biceps. I am sure he stole this from a professional wrestler, but it was quite impressive to a 9-year-old boy. We tussled, shared a visit to the principal’s office, and have been best friends ever since. Over the years, I have learned that Toby tears his shirt off over just about anything – touchdowns, lottery scratch-offs, and bagpipe music, to name a few.
The arm-pumping and bicep-kissing, however, meant Toby had gone nuclear, and it usually followed a Your Momma insult. With the middle name of Dawn – his mother’s name – this seemed to happen a lot. People were not as tolerant of unique names back in the seventies, so unsuspecting kids would poke at him. And since he insisted on emblazoning his name on everything, he ripped up a lot of shirts growing up. If things escalated into mother insults, Toby began flexing and smooching his big guns, ready to defend Mrs. McIntyre’s name and honor. The sight of a red-haired, red-faced, shirtless kid flexing like a bodybuilder apparently works, because he never had to fight after this display, except me. A dodgeball to the head seems to be the other trigger, of course. As soon as Toby could pass for eighteen, he got his Mom tattoos.
His devotion is admirable, if not a little overboard. Although when it comes to Mom, all of us men are softies. I suspect we all look like little banty roosters to our mothers, still puffing out our chests, wanting nothing more than to impress or protect them. We all want to be their knights in shining armor, but we are always their little boys, clumsily doing our best to show our love each Mother’s Day with flowers or dinner. They patiently put up with us. Honestly, as if mothers ever needed us to protect or provide or validate them! Those are things Moms do for us.
Nevertheless, Mother’s Day brings something out in us men. We can get a little weepy because most of us have placed our mothers on a pedestal, but if anyone in our lives deserves such worship, it’s Mom. Deep down we are all like Toby Dawn, unashamedly in love with the woman who raised and nurtured us, and ready to fight anyone who would dare besmirch her honor. And as we age and witness the incredible love and devotion our wives have for our children, our love and appreciation only deepens, and we make room for two on that pedestal. My mom passed many years ago, and I would do anything to have her back for a minute, even get a pair of Mom tattoos. Anything to know she is proud of this banty rooster. Please honor the Moms in our lives this weekend. They deserve all that we can give them and so much more. And please pray for the safety of our schools this second Sunday of the month.