Olivia Lasheen’s little worlds

Olivia Lasheen's "little worlds"

Olivia Lasheen’s “little worlds” (photograph courtesy of Olivia Lasheen)

“My story begins back in 2013 when I first met the fascinating artist duo that is Kurt and Kremena. I was conducting one of the first interviews that would later become part of Lexington Art League’s Artist Archive. Amazed by the community-based projects the pair had already completed, I was equally as excited to see what they’d do in the future. At that point, the Lexington Tattoo Project was complete and the video was scheduled to premiere at Buster’s a few weeks later. To say I was bummed to have missed the boat is an understatement. I knew that if they ever did anything like it again, I had to be involved.

Fast forward to a year later and I found myself on the long stretch of a road trip. Passing time on Facebook, I stumbled upon one of Kremena’s very recent posts. Love Letter To The World had just been released and the poem was live. I read from beginning to end and was immediately drawn to one phrase in particular: ‘little worlds.’

While scheduling my tattoo appointment, I thought hard about my choice and wondered why I had so quickly gravitated towards these words. Looking at my calendar, I noticed a milestone coming up in my grandparents’ relationship. I immediately realized how heavily inspired my choice of words was by their story.

My Granny Fifi first met her future husband at the young age of 16. His name was Aly and she mistook him for a friend of her father’s just visiting for dinner. At her age she wasn’t interested in marriage and was actually in love with her cousin. Only two weeks after that meeting, she was forced to marry this 34-year-old man. An arranged marriage with an 18-year age difference did not stop them from leaving Egypt together, moving to America for his career, building their home that they still live in, raising three children, and falling deeply in love. To this day, they share an overwhelming amount of love and remain the most inspiring couple I have ever known. Even as Papa Aly struggles with Lewy Body Dementia with Granny Fifi as his sole caretaker, they live on in the little world they created together. Their story is a perfect example of two very different worlds that unexpectedly came together to create such a beautiful one of their own.

I got my tattoo on September 30, 2014, their 60th wedding anniversary. The day came and I headed to Charmed Life. I was thrilled to be tattooed at the shop where most of the Lexington Tattoo Project tattoos had been inked. I nervously clenched my boyfriend’s hand, shocked by how little my tattoo hurt and how much it tickled.

My tattoo has become a daily reminder that every passing stranger is living a life deeply rooted in private circumstances that we may never have the chance to know about. I often find myself too caught up in the daily struggles, petty squabbles, and complications of my own world. My tattoo allows me to step back and realize that everyone else is also living their own life in their own world. I think the most we can do is to always remember the greater universe we’re all a part of, to live happily in our own little world and, if we’re lucky, be a part of someone else’s too.

Sometimes the world seems really little, and you find out that Kremena happens to know your grandparents, visits them regularly, and adores them too! Sometimes it seems even smaller when you by chance happen to take a poetry class with Frank X Walker, the writer of the verse tattooed on your thigh! (Cue ‘It’s a Small World’!)

May we never forget ‘how much like little worlds we are.’ There is nothing better than meeting someone with another Love Letter To the World tattoo and finding out what words they chose and why. I haven’t met anyone else with ‘little worlds’ inked on their body yet, but I’m sure you are out there somewhere.”

Fifi and Aly in 1954, the year they got married (Photograph courtesy of Olivia Lasheen)

Fifi and Aly in 1954, the year they got married (photograph courtesy of Olivia Lasheen)

Note: Watch the minute-long preview of the Love Letter To the World video artwork for another glimpse of Olivia’s “little worlds.”