The Naming of Things

This isn’t about cats, but I do think Eliot was on to something, here.

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
~The Naming of Cats, T.S. Eliot

This is about our goofy family tendencies to name things. The dog’s two favorite plushies, for instance, are called Mungo and Manky. Clearly the dog doesn’t care what their names are, as long as we play tug and fetch until he’s ready to drop. I wanted to call something Alonzo; Felix didn’t approve of it for any of his various stuffed friends, but he thought it was perfect for the concrete tiki in the front garden.

Apparently I spell “Alonzo” like an American. Who knew?

I knit and crochet. I am fond of amigurumi and stuffies. The end result is that my son has any number of handmade critters around his room, Starry the googly-eyed star, Frank the cat, Algernon the Octopus, Claire the Jellyfish. “22216” the friendly AT-AT:

#amigurumi AT-AT from a pattern by @mysteriouscats #crochet #starwars

A photo posted by Cameron Garriepy (@camerongarriepy) on

When he was in kindergarten, Felix called his backpack Sharkey (it had comical orange sharks on it), but one morning he told me his jacket’s name was Tom. Clearly. I was reminding him of that as we rushed out the door one morning last week, and then noted the time and said, “What we need to name right now is us getting in the car,” which he took to mean he got to name my car.


He named my car “Al.”

You know how sometimes a name sticks, even when you don’t necessarily want it to? That. So we celebrated by listening to Paul Simon on the way up the street to drop-off. Just call me Betty.


So, I wrote this up right after Alan Rickman passed away, but — relevant to the post itself — I didn’t publish it, because it felt weird. Related: it’s messy in my head sometimes.

SB Sarah at Smart Bitches Trashy Books described it as a “weird” sadness, and it is.

I keep tearing up because two performers passed away.

Alan Rickman and David Bowie: their talents both stolen from the world, their bright lights darkened, their hearts torn from their families. I’ve been sort of obsessively reading tributes, watching and listening to the legacies they left behind, trying to work out why I’m so saddened. The loss of an artist is always a reason to mourn, but I can only recall being this weirdly crushed twice before. When Mary Travers died, and when we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman to his own demons.

I just read a note, in the comments of the video below, from someone thanking Rickman for reading and replying to fanmail he sent when he was 13. The cynic in me assumes it was a toadie working for his publicist who mailed off a signed headshot… but then, what if it was the man himself? By all accounts, he was a good and gentle soul (Bowie, too, from what I’ve read), so why not?

It should not be such a brave thing, to reach out to the world for comfort. It should be the ordinary work of a day to say thank you, to say hello, to say, “Your work means something to me.” To tell someone you know you’re thinking of them, or to mention a passing memory to the person you remembered, even if it’s been a long time. It ought to be completely typical to connect.

And yet, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, at least for me, it’s hard to reach out, to place myself in the path of someone I’ve known, or wish to know, or want to acknowledge. (Extrovert problems: craving interaction and human energy, while simultaneously fearing you’re interrupting or intruding.) It’s a weird fear, a throwback to wanting a boy to like you back, or being hurt when someone wasn’t kind, but I am not a little girl or a fidgety teen anymore.

And so, I’m going to say out loud, the word that I’ve been rolling around in my brain for 2016: Connect.

Time to get over being afraid to reach out to the world for whatever reason, because I so love when the world reaches back. And to strengthen my resolve, I will indulge in the late, exceptionally talented Alan Rickman having a rather epic cup of tea. (Time to flip the table on my own reserve.) Maybe while listening to Starman. Because if anyone knew how to live life on his own terms, it was Bowie.

Arthur Weasley Would Be Delighted

Felix and I are, for the third go ’round, reading the Harry Potter books, but now that he is eight, he wants to finish the story. (Prior to this, we stopped at the end of Goblet of Fire, because I felt the story was above his Kindergarten and younger interest. Let’s be honest, all the anger and angst in Order of the Phoenix frustrates me, and I was a teenager once.) It’s been a great experience, reading these books aloud again, this time with an audience who picks up so much more nuance and connection.

Upon hearing that the Ministry and the Daily Prophet were quietly smearing Harry in the press following Voldemort’s return, Felix got all het up and shouted, “Cornelius Fudge should lose his job!”

Too right, love. Too right.

I could go on forever about the things he’s loving about the story, but in particular he is just tickled pink by Arthur Weasley’s obsession with Muggles and their coping mechanisms. He also appreciates that I would dearly love to master some of Molly’s domestic spell talent. Since Thursday nights are busy right now — swimming lessons right from aftercare, which means I pick up straight from work, and we don’t get home until after 7:00 — I’ve been trying to get dinner started in the slow cooker in the morning.

This dreary February morning, I left tikka masala in the slow cooker, cardamom rice in the rice cooker, and the dishwasher merrily cleaning several days’ worth of mess.

We muddle along without spells as best we can, but I refer to it as “the magic kitchen,” and Felix says it’s definitely Arthur Weasley approved.

If you’re interested, you can find the tikka masala recipe we’re using at The Kitchn.

Ralph Fiennes is Losing His Hair

1I clicked on one of those nonsense “articles” about what the stars of the Harry Potter film franchise look like now. We’ll start there.

At the end, is Ralph Fiennes, so many years after taking over the role of Voldemort.

Sitting at my kitchen table, listening to Christmas carols and contemplating my coffee, I said aloud to the dog, “Aw. Ralph Fiennes is losing his hair.”

It was kind of a tender thought. He’s a good looking man, receding hairline or not, and a lot of guys my age are starting to show a little more forehead. It… made a certain bittersweet sense that he, too, might have aged. He’s fifteen years my senior, after all.

Here’s the thing: in the next heartbeat, I had a very vivid recollection of being in college, and watching Shakespeare in Love, which resulted in a very serious discussion about which brother was foxier: Ralph or Joseph? It was generally agreed that while Joseph had certain appeal, Ralph was more broody and classically handsome, ergo foxier. Remember, The English Patient was only two years out back then, and we were twentyish. Swoon.

The thing is, I feel like that pushing-twenty year old conversation happened yesterday, but Ralph Fiennes is losing his hair. Sometimes approaching forty is a strange place.

Unrelated observations: My crushes on Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman are undiminished.

October Song

Burning BushThere is something magical about the light in October. I can’t ever quite articulate it. Something about the clarity — a hushed, soft clarity, a dignified kind of quiet brightness…

Perhaps it’s to do with the effect of sunlight falling on the painted leaves that, while green, were merely a canopy of sturdy summer shade. Cornflower blue skies, low golden light in bars as those leaves, like the Phoenix, burst into flame and burn for a glorious turn of the calendar page, before they are gone, leaving those maple and oak limbs the same muted gray as the ashy sky behind them. The knowledge that the very quality of the light is fleeting, that the sunlight is sinking, makes me nostalgic for the summer even while I can feel my soul reaching for the early dark and deep, starry winter skies.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.