For a long time now, I’ve kept an open file on the desktop of my computer where I jot bits of family drama as they happen. Sometimes it is just a tidbit of normalcy that I particularly like, sometimes the memory of me or my siblings as mischeivous little tykes, sometimes memories of the different homes this gypsy family has claimed. It’s all going to go into my great American novel someday, but I’ve decided to post a bit of it here as a beginning. Just a jot now and then. I hope you find some interest (more likely humor) in these swift glimpses. I just need somewhere to begin getting them down. They’re probably of more interest to me than anyone else, but it’s good to hone my storytelling skills. Thanks for humoring me.
Sketch the First
We began our quest with a naming.
Great adventures often begin in this manner. To name something is to pull it from the vast anonymity of general adventure and give it an identity, a cause and personality in the stories wrought by imagination. In my teen years I was to learn this from Tolkien. The idea of a magical kingdom is generally enchanting, but the concrete glory of Lothlorien, home of the Galadhrim is wholly captivating. A strong magic broods in the corners of the particular, named lands of literature and imagination. When something is named it has a history, a personality, and a force in the making of great tales.
Thus we sensed the gravity of this ritual and began the choosing of our pretend names for our imaginary adventure with quite solemn faces. We scrunched our dusty knees up to our chins under the awning of the cedar playhouse under my grandmother’s old Texas oaks. Our lips pressed tight, our foreheads lined with the strain of searching thought, we contemplated on what titles best suited young heroes and heroines. ‘Twas a quick deliberation in the end; adventure was chattering at us from every corner of that hill county yard, the summer day was dog hot and instead of faith, we had patience about the size of a mustard seed. At that time, our literary journeys had led us only to the borders of childhood’s simple realm of story, much of it within the golden realm of English classics and it was from their pages that we drew our selections.
John, Johnny and Mary we were; old names to be sure, simple and sturdy for the clean young souls that bore them. Names that had graced the exploits of many heroes and heroines in history had we but known it. The double occurrence of John arose from a dispute between the boys. To our young minds, John was the classic name for a dashing young hero and neither of the boys intended to yield their right unto it.
“It is my middle name,” Nathan announced, with the air of a young lord being defrauded of his inheritance.
“Yes, but I thought of it first,” proclaimed Joel, with the equalizing fervor of a revolting peasant. “And there are hundreds of other names you can have.”
“But I want to be John. It’s only fair.”
“No it isn’t. Finders keepers and I found it first.”
Glaring at each other with a blue-eyed stubbornness I knew very well, they hunched into their corners of the playhouse like obstinate young warlords, intent on holding their rocky bit of hilltop. I sighed. This would never do. If they got in a fuss and brought Mom into the mix, our adventuring would be ended before it began. Knowing my name to be perfectly safe and considering myself to be the fair damsel of unmatched wisdom in this story, I ventured to enter the fray with a suggestion.
“One of you can be John and one can be Johnny,” I said brightly, hopefully.
“I claim Johnny!” shrieked Nathan.
A disdainful nod from Joel sealed the agreement and eyeing each other warily, they un-hunched themselves from their respective corners and settled into the feel of their new identities.
Joel settled his regally round his shoulders and stood up as straight and strong as was physically possible when you are well under five feet tall. The old nobility of the ancient name suited Joel. Tender, determined, highly creative, even at seven he bore many of the classic traits of a storybook hero and thus easily claimed the name as his own. With a graceful flourish he bowed to me, murmuring, “thank you my lady” in a perfect English accent.
Nathan’s more jaunty take suited him equally well with its maverick twist on the classic; as cavalier and out of the box as he himself , with a lively tang of free spirited soul. He caught up his new identity with a bound and brandished it in front of him, catching up an invisible sword and lunging toward his archrival. “On guard,” he cried to the regal Lord John. I rolled my eyes and waited for them to finish the first sword fight of our new reality. I think it was a sort of baptism.