grown ups are like that....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What's in a Name?

When I was pregnant with my second child I would wander the cemetery looking for baby names. My husband and I already had a boy's name picked out, but a girl's name still eluded us. So I would wander up to the unkempt and lonely cemetery a few blocks from our house. It was always empty, and I liked that I could stand in front of the graves of long dead women and pronounce their names aloud without being observed. I felt like I was actually chewing on the words, tasting them in big, noisy gulps.

Pearl- I liked this one, and I came back to it often. It felt smooth and concise and rolled easily between gums and teeth and cheek. Yet it was also a bit cold, and I ultimately spit it out.

Sabrah had an edge to it, but I liked it. It felt strong, and I pictured a long legged wild-child of a girl fighting with me at every turn. I tossed it out like an apple with a bruise on its shoulder.

Llewlla simple had too many L's for its own good.

Addie was sweet but lacked any crunch, so that was set aside, too.

Finally we settled on a name that I never saw on any grave and that we thought was simple and lovely and perfect: August Rose.

Then we had a boy.


We wander that cemetery as a family now. We do simple grave rubbings, pick black raspberries from along the fence, and just sit and watch the clouds roll by. My children are not afraid of those who rest there, and we almost feel as if this is "our" cemetery now.

My kids, too, have become interested in the unusual names that can be found on the crumbling gravestones. My daughter always brings a notebook with her on our visits and has lists and lists of names carefully copied from the stones or grave rubbings. What was it like, we think, to walk around wearing Eleazar, Waterman, or Oneida as a name? Did the name feel heavy like their layers of Victorian clothing? Or did it fit as comfortably and easily as one of today's common names (Jennifer, Hayden, Hunter)?

Some of the most intriguing names keep us talking long after we've returned home and brushed the fall leaves off of our coats and had our tea or hot cider . . .

Wealthy Payne--Was this a hope her parents set on her shoulders at birth? Or was she the little gift that made them feel like rich and and lucky parents?

Silence Babcock-- Did her parents truly prize this virtue? Did she end up being a quiet child, or did she rebel against her name and become raving and loud, shouting to the heavens?

Azubah Carpenter--Was this an ancient name from the bible? Or a family name from a time long before his birth?

Halloween is coming up, and like many people I will take this time to think of those who have passed on from my life. Because of distance I cannot visit my father's grave or the graves of my grandparents or my friends. Instead I will gather the children, and we will walk to our little cemetery and honor, in our way, those who rest there. We will stand in front of the graves and say the names of the dead out loud releasing them into the air like ether.

Monday, October 3, 2011


She was between houses.

One was sold and the other not yet ready to occupy. But she had friends and family who opened their arms to her and her husband as she waited for their first born to arrive.

During a routine visit to the obstetrician she announced that her baby would enter the world on Monday October 15, 1973.

"No, you have plenty of time, and I have a golf game," said the doctor.

But she was wise and words are powerful, and Sunday her water broke.

She labored with no food or drink and confined to a bed.

Early Monday morning they separated husband and wife, and she gave birth to a baby daughter that did not cry.

Her husband brought her roses and a box of candy so large that she shared her sweet gift with the nurses.

More than a week later she left the hospital with her Monday's child in her arms and her love by her side.

They stayed, for a time, with her mother. She needed mothering herself, and the house was not yet ready.

When it was time to go the three of them moved to their house near Pike's Peak. The mountain watched as the little family made the bare bones of the new house a home.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Tender Years

A couple of dear friends came over last night, and we talked at length about our memories of kindergarten. What we remembered from those early years varied considerably. While my husband could remember many small details (the color of the walls, the assorted toys, etc.) another friend had no memories whatsoever.

I remember quite a bit of that year. A few particular memories stand out.


I won a small glass giraffe as a prize at school. It has a rainbow swirl of colors twisting through its body, and I am instantly in love with it. Days later I drop the little animal behind the dresser in my room. I reach my tiny arm under the piece of furniture, but I cannot grasp it. I strain and struggle, yet I simply cannot will my arm to stretch any further. I can see the giraffe tilted on its side just beyond my fingers. Its rainbow colors are muted and dull in the dark space under the dresser, and it feels as if my heart is about to break.


I'm sitting in the classroom, crying, in the arms of my teacher. The rest of the students are outside at recess, and I can see them through the open back door of the classroom. The teacher is soothing me, trying to help me stop crying. What she doesn't understand is that I cannot help it. I simply do not know how to stop. The anxiety and sadness I feel has no explanation, thus it has no cure. I am a despondent little thing, and the tears flow freely.


Everyone in the class is settled down for nap time. No one sleeps, though. We are a group of squiggly, wiggly, giggly worms. But we try. We really do, because if you are quiet and still and good the teacher may tap you gently on the shoulder. This muted signal lets you know that you are chosen to play in the toy kitchen. I am desperate to be picked, because I want so badly to play with the little plastic eggs in the tiny ice box. They nestle sweetly in a plastic carton and when you "crack" one open a perfect yellow center is revealed. I need to play with those eggs, so I struggle to be as still as I can. I squeeze my eyes shut, and I know in my heart that I will be chosen any minute now. But when the lights go on, and I open my eyes I see that I was not special. I had not been chosen.


I am sitting on the front step of my house. It is a beautiful, sunny day, and I am enjoying being alone and quiet. Suddenly, my mother steps out with a tray in her hands. On the tray is my white plastic tea set. She gingerly sets it down beside me and shows me that the tea pot is filled with Kool-Aid, a treat we rarely if ever have. I am delighted beyond words. I fill a cup with the drink and carefully walk to our snowball tree. The boughs are heavy with flowers and they hang down in such a way as to create a perfect little room under the branches. I sit there watching the world through a gauzy white veil.

Kindergarten 1978