Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's in a name

If E had come into the world with boy pieces instead of girl pieces, she would have been named Evan. Why Evan? There was a grandmother we wanted to honor named Ethel and a grandfather we wanted to honor named Stanley. I know the Ethel part is a little more apparent than the Stanley part, so let me offer this: Stanley means ‘stony’ or ‘of the rocky field’ or such similar name dictionary sentiments. Evan, in Hebrew, means ‘rock.’ Not just a rock, though, but Rock. Boulder. Monolith. Evan is El Capitan. Evan is The North Face. Evan is New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain before his face fell off. Or maybe, more appropriately, Evan is the cliffs of Haifa.

Anyway, E’s name honored Ethel and Stanley without being a boy name, and now we’ll never have an Evan.

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Since this is turning out to be Storytelling Week, let me tell you about how our family stories come about. One of our stories that is currently featured in heavy rotation is The Boy Who Built Rainbow Crab City (And Didn’t Even Know It). Are you thinking: “how does she even come up with this nonsense?” Because for my girls’ literary satisfaction and commuting distraction I really have had to improvise a story that goes by that name. Here’s how this kind of thing happens:

The girls’ daycare is running a summer program with an ‘Under the Sea’ theme. So one afternoon when I picked them up, E had painted a picture with a green crab and a blue crab in it. That same day, L had made a red crab out of some paint and pompoms and paper plates. As we battled evening traffic the girls admired their handiwork together and E asked me to tell a story about a red crab, a blue crab and a green crab.

If your child said to you, Mama, tell us a story about a red crab, a blue crab and a green crab!, how would you respond?

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On that day I satisfied her request and now I am asked to tell that story again and again. The central character is a little boy. E supplies his name with each telling. On yesterday’s drive home it was Crocky. On this morning’s drive it was Ta-Ka-Du. (Please forgive that I am unsure of their spelling – I’m working with phonetic reinterpretations, here.) I insert whatever name E requests, but in my head, I’ve determined that the central character in my stories is Evan. Evan is a strong name for a boy of solid character, and nobody likes a plot line with an underdeveloped character. Every life tells a story. Evan is no exception.

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So have you thought about it? If you were asked to tell a story of three crabs, what story would you tell?

Writers who feel blocked don’t need writing prompts. They need the company of small children.

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And that’s how our stories come about. Would you like to know what I did with the request for three colors of crab? In honor that tomorrow my debut column featuring the fully unabridged The True Story of Jack and Jill will post over at Simple Kids, I’ll also tell you a story here.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you about Evan, The Boy Who Built Rainbow Crab City (And Didn’t Even Know It). It’s a bit long for a blog post, so before you come over grab your nap mat and juice box. Then settle in and get comfy. You’re always welcome in the noteverstill house, and it’s always story time.
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