My Father’s Hands

My father was a builder. He could build a shelf, a shed, a stool. He could turn an unfinished cellar into a beautiful bedroom, laundry room, rec room and bathroom. My father had hands that could turn a simple piece of wood into a cross for the local church.

My father’s hands were strong, capable, rough to the touch.

They were gentle when they cradled his children. They were strong when they were asked to move rocks in the backyard.

When my sons were small, my Dad built each of them a little wooden train. The cars connected with a simple peg and hole design. Each train had an engine, a set of following cars, and a small caboose. Each had the name of one son carved into it.

I watched my boys play with those wooden trains. They drove them down the hall, across the kitchen, over a mountain of stacked books. The little wooden wheels rolled effortlessly through our house. The engines were crashed together, driven down our front steps, and taken out into the yard on warm summer days.

My father laughed with pleasure when he saw his grandsons racing the trains, crashing them into walls and taken them apart over and over again. “They’re toys,” he said when I worried about the boys breaking them. “They’re supposed to be played with! Let them play.”

So I did. I let them play. I let my beautiful boys use those wooden trains to create new worlds and gain control of those worlds. I held my tongue when I wanted to tell them to be careful. I stopped myself from putting the little trains up on a shelf.

And my boys grew up. The wooden trains were left behind, with the hot wheels and the books and the leggos.

When I knew that they had truly grown and gone, I carefully picked up each little train car. I dusted them, cleaned them with lemon oil, gently attached each car to it’s neighbor. I placed them up on a shelf, surrounded by my favorite photos and souvenirs of long ago vacations.

And there they sat, for too many years.

But now I have my grandchildren in my house. I have a toy box, a book shelf filled with favorite stories, baskets of dress up clothes and stuffed animals.

And the wooden trains have come back out.

This morning as I watched the kids at play, I looked up to see the baby, little Johnny, holding one of those wooden train engines in his hand. And it hit me with the force of all that love and sorrow and joy.

His little hand, the hand that contains the essence of his great grandfather, was rolling the train across my floor. He was cooing and grinning and giggling with happiness. I watched my sweet baby Johnny as he lifted the wooden toy to his mouth and then held it out to me. He seemed to be saying, “Hey! Would you look at this!!! A TRAIN!”

I looked at his little hand, his dimpled knuckles and chubby wrists. And I saw my boys right there in front of my. My own sweet little ones, racing those trains across this very same floor.

And I saw the hands of my father. Those capable, gentle, strong hands, creating years and decades of pleasure for those who would come after him. I saw his hands right there over Johnny’s. I saw the hands of my boys, holding those same little trains in the very same way.

What a gift.

Today I saw my Dad, gone now for more than ten years. I saw him smiling at my little grandson, guiding him as he learned how to roll that wooden train across the floor of my living room.

What a gift.

My father’s hands, and the hands of my baby Johnny.

Johnny train



I’m Thinking of Writing a Cookbook

I actually am thinking about writing a cookbook.

I need a source of additional income, and my only two reasonable skills are cooking and writing. Hence: a cookbook!

I know, I know. The market is absolutely flooded with cookbooks right now.

But MINE will be special.

You see, I have been experimenting with some truly unique recipes.

Here’s the backstory.

My grandson Johnny loves to eat. His nicknames include “Johnny Cheeks”, “Big Goomba” and “Johnny Pork Chop,” At a mere nine months old, the kid can chow down with the best of them.

johnny's first pastina

Good for him, right? Nothing makes Nonni happier than feeding babies.

The thing is, he’s still an infant. He’s supposed to be getting his nutrition mostly from breast milk. His mother is a milk producer par excellence. Think Holstein and you get the picture. She has enough of nature’s perfect nutrition to feed a whole barnful of Johnnys. She wants him to have her milk. She says it’s the best possible food for him.

He doesn’t particularly agree. Maybe he doesn’t want to seem immature, you know? Or maybe once you taste meatballs there’s no going back. I’m not sure.

All I know is that my boss  daughter leaves me 8 ounces of fresh mother’s milk every day, and my job is to get it into the Goomba. I’ve tried his usual bottle, a sippy cup, a straw, a spoon, and a bottle with handles he can use to feed himself.

No dice. No matter what I try, he pushes it aside and reaches for the nearest ham sandwich.

So I have become an expert at hiding breast milk in everyday foods.

Oatmeal in the morning? Sure! We cool it off with breast milk. Pastina? Yup, breast milk goes in there, too. Scrambled eggs with spinach and breast milk? One of his faves.

I have even given him risotto with carrots, peas and chicken. Made with….you guessed it. Breast milk.

Can’t you just imagine how awesome my cookbook will be once I pull it all together? How unique, how different? How useful?

I’ll need super shiny, fancy photos to grace every page. I figure I know enough cute babies to pose them with my breastmilk and maple sugar pancakes. They can even give the testimonials for each dish.

Johnny oatmeal

“Mmmmmmm. Numnah!”

Naturally, I’ll need to come up with chic hipster names for each recipe. I read “Bon Appetite.” I know how this works. You have to include at least one non-English word in each title, and it has to be served “with” something.  All the new restaurants and cookbooks feature items like “Wild boar ragout with chanterelles and persimmon sauce.”

I have a few recipes already, and plan to spend the next three months perfecting others. Right up until the Pork Chop is fully weaned.

How do these sound to you? Delicious? Be honest. What do you think?

“Bananes frites with mother’s milk and fresh blueberry sauce.”

“Best of the Breast omelette with mushrooms.”

“No Cow Juice For You Fruit Shakes- a healthy mix of Mom’s pride and fresh fruit.”

“Pastina con latte materno.”

“Risotto a la Mamma Mia.”

I think it will catch on. I can’t wait to start working on desserts. Just think of the creamy custards!

Parental Sacrifice

Remember when your kids were little? It was funny, annoying and sweet to catch yourself making ridiculous sacrifices for them.

I know in my house we sacrificed our precious sleep just to keep those little cuties alive. I bet you did, too!

We sacrificed our date nights when we couldn’t find sitters. We sacrificed our weekends to hockey tournaments and band practice and girl scout camping trips. That’s what adults do for kids! We set aside our own needs and preferences for the children who depended on us.

Whether it was the pulp in our orange juice or the crunch in our peanut butter, we were willing to give up our own pleasures to keep our kids happy.

As a teacher, I remember sacrificing my lunch break for kids who needed someone to talk to. We all sacrificed our weekends to lesson plans so that the kids would have the best week possible.

That’s what adults do. That is how every species has managed to survive. We sacrifice our own needs so that the next generation can thrive.

I know that if someone told me that I should give up a dangerous vice in order to protect our children, I would do it. I have skipped that glass of wine with dinner so I could safely drive the kids to a lesson or a game. I have given up the warmth and comfort of our wood stove, knowing that it made it harder for the kids to breathe.

Adults are genetically predisposed to protect children.

So if I was a person who really had a fabulous time juggling hand grenades, I’d be willing to give that up if I knew it might hurt the kids in my neighborhood. If I was a driver who really enjoyed driving a tank around town, I’d grudgingly stop doing it in order to prevent kids from getting squished.

This is what human being are designed to do. We are designed to protect our children.


Why do the “I really have a good time shooting my AR-15” people think that their “fun” is more important than the lives of our kids? It makes no sense. It defies logic.

I know that if I could save the life of one child by giving up my TV, I’d do it. If I could save the lives of a dozen kids by giving up my laptop, it would be gone. Save a hundred kids by giving up my car? Yup, you can have it.

Save thousands of kids every single year by giving up my assault weapon?

Why would any human being say no to that?

I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

The Goddess


I grew up as a good Catholic girl. In my world, God was man. He was a tall white man with a light brown beard and a white robe.

God was male.

But I’m not a little girl anymore.

Now I am a mother. I saw my own body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my three children. That made me wonder if perhaps the true deity was a woman.

I have been lucky enough to watch my daughter become a mother.  I watched her body grow and stretch and bend itself to give life to my grandchildren.  That made me suspect that I was right is seeing the true deity as a woman.

Today I helped my 87 year old mother as she took a shower, washed her hair, got dressed and settled herself into her favorite chair to rest after those efforts.

It wasn’t easy for Mom. She was embarrassed to realize that she needed me to do something as simple as taking a shower.

I need to tell you that my Mom was a power woman. For all of my 61 years of life, my mother has been tough, strong, proud and independent . She was the first feminist in my life. She was my role model.

But today she needed me. She is almost 88 years old. She is recovering from pneumonia. She has difficulties with her memory and her cognition. She is old.

Today she needed me. She didn’t want to need me. She didn’t want to be so frail that she couldn’t bathe herself or dress herself.

But she was.

And she had the strength and the grace to accept that fact. She let me turn on the shower. She let me help her to undress.

“Well” she said, with a smile, “here I am in all my glory.”

And I looked at my mother. Thin, frail, too weak to stand on her own.

And I saw the Goddess.

I saw the body that gave me my life.

I saw the strength and the beauty and the courage that has shaped all of her life.

My beautiful, fragile, goddess Mother.

And now I think I understand.

The deity is a Goddess. The deity is woman.

God or Goddess; the deity is love. It is the desire to share ourselves with others. It is the desire to love and to be loved.

Now I hope that one day I will have the grace and the courage to face my own frailties, and to let my children help when I am no stronger than a baby myself.



The Universality of Motherhood


When I was a new mother, I felt sorry for every other Mom on earth. I felt badly for them, because they didn’t have MY little one to love. I felt sorry for them because I knew, deep deep down in my heart, that there was no possible way that they could love their babies as much as I loved mine.

I was a jerk.

OK, I was a jerk in the most life affirming way, believing that my kids were the most beautiful, most beloved little beings in the universe. But, let’s face it, I was a delusional, mother-hormone-crazy woman.

Now I know the truth.

Now I know that ALL mothers love their babies just as intensely and profoundly as I loved mine.

I know because I see it every day.

I leave my house every morning and drive for 15 minutes to pick up my grandchildren for the day. I wind through the little streets of our small community. I stop every day for the school bus that seems to inevitably be right in front of me.

So I have had many, many mornings to watch the moms in our community putting the kids on the bus. I’ve come to look forward to seeing them every day. I watch how they interact with their young children.

And I know that no matter who they are, they adore those sweet little munchkins heading off to school.

There is one Mom who has caught my eye this school year. She stand outside every morning, rain or shine. She looks to be in her late 30s or early 40s. She is round, in both face and form. He hair is dark, thick, and curly, like my daughter’s. Her skin is a light coffee color, and her eyes are wide and dark. Although I usually only see her as I pass slowly by the bus stop, I know that she spends these precious before school moments with her son. She looks at him. They grin at each other. One day I saw them dancing.

I have seen them standing in the humid mornings of September, gazing up at the yellow leaves above them. I’ve watched them hold each other under a big black umbrella on rainy mornings. I’ve seen him running around his Mom, grinning and calling something that I couldn’t hear. I’ve seen her laughing at him as he does.

And I’ve seen this woman waving, and waving, and blowing kisses as her boy climbs the steps of the big yellow bus and settles into his seat.

I’ve watched her stand with a hand shading her eyes as she waves him off to school.

And I know that she loves this happy little curly headed boy just as much as I loved my own first born. I know that wherever she goes after he gets onto that bus, she is thinking of him all day long.

I don’t know this woman. She wouldn’t ever recognize me. Still, I know that we share the universal bond of crazy pants mother love.

She probably feels bad for all the other Mom’s she meets, too. Thinking how sad it is for them that they don’t have her little guy to love.


The Gentle Aromas of Childhood


I was a lucky, lucky Mommy. All three of my children were born healthy. All of them thrived on the breast milk that I was lucky enough to produce for them. They grew, they matured, they got stronger every day.

I was SO. LUCKY!

I mean…yeah, I was lucky that they were healthy. I was very lucky that they were able to thrive on breast milk. I was lucky that they were able to latch, and that I was able to provide what they needed.

I have always known how wonderful and blessed those early days were.

But now I have an entirely different perspective.

Now I understand that I was one of God’s chosen people because none of my children….not a single one of the three….was a puker.

Of course, they would occasionally burp and give up a tiny little blop of milky goop. But it was so insignificant that we were all able to politely ignore it and just move on.

I never had one of those babies who gurbled out 3 ounces of cheesy milky slime for every 5 ounces consumed.

I mean, I knew about those kids, of course. I remember when my first nephew was born. My sister-in-law described having to turn over her rocking chair once a week to chip away at the dried crud. I have always known that super pukers exist.

It’s just that I have never before had to deal with one!

When Ellie was a baby, she was a delicate, gentle, once in a while regurgitator. The kind of baby that needed a tiny little hanky to handle her rare blurps.

But now we have Johnny.

How do I describe my sweet, happy Johnny?

I love him! I adore him! I exalt at his very existence!

And yet…..

Johnny is a BIG BOY. He weighs almost 18 pounds at four months. He eats. A lot. Some days the little guy sucks down 14 ounces of breast milk, pumped by his goddess of a mother.

Then he joyfully squeezes his eyes shut and poops out 6 ounces of yellow slime into and out of his diaper, and right up to his armpits.

And that’s OK. I can handle poop.

But after every 4 ounces of nice warm Mommy milk in a perfectly sterile bottle? The little monster  boy immediately pukes up a stream of warm, stringy, mucousy milk. All over whatever clean shirt he is wearing.

Nonni then scoops him up, washes him off, puts on new clothes and settles back into her rocking chair.

Where said adorable boy pukes up a pile of yogurt all over the two of us.

Back to the bathroom, back to the washcloth, back to the bedroom for fresh clothes for both Nonni and boy.

And into the chair we settle, very, very gently. We sigh. We snuggle.

And approximately 10 minutes later, something that smells strangely like feta cheese comes flying out of that sweet little mouth and coats the two of us.

What can I say?

I love my grandson more than I could ever explain.

But I can no longer eat goat cheese. Or feta. Or brie.

I can no longer tolerate the smell of butter or cream. (gag) Or the thought of blue cheese dressing.

Cottage cheese? Fuggetaboutit.

I plan to steam clean my living room furniture and rugs with vinegar this weekend.

I am considering the idea of a cork for next week.

Gosh, I love this little guy!!!!


Do I smell cheese curds?


“Stay at home…..Nonni”

I am a child of the 60s. My stay at home, Italian, Catholic, good girl mother was the very first feminist I have ever known.

Mom got married at 20 and raised 6 of us kids before she finally went back to get her college degree and begin a career in education. She was a feminist without ever calling herself that.

She organized the paraprofessional educators in our town to form their own union. She argued with our middle school principal when the rules insisted that girls had to wear skirts to school, even when it was 5 degrees and snowing out. She told him that when the boys wore shorts, her daughters would wear skirts.

The rules changed.

I grew up expecting myself to be a liberated woman. I knew that I wanted a career, even as I recognized my desire to be a mother.

I married my sweetheart at the tender age of 22. We both went to graduate school, where I earned a Master’s Degree while he went all the way to a doctorate. We both believed in our careers and our skills and our desire to contribute to society. I became a Speech/language Specialist, working with young children. He became a Clinical Psychologist.

We loved our work. We were proud of what we did.

So when we had children, it wasn’t a hard decision for me to go back to work. We needed the money. We needed the insurance that my job offered.

And I needed a place to go where I could feel smart and valued and worthy.

Now,(as the politicians say) let me be perfectly clear: I loved my kids so much it was kind of ridiculous. I thought of them 24 hours a day, I adored them, I treasured them, I hurt when I wasn’t with them.

But the thought of staying home all day, every day, to tend to the diapers and spit ups and juice boxes of those early years would have had me running off into the night without a thought.

And that’s what I am finding so funny now.

Now I am a stay at home Nonni. I spend all day, every day, Mon-Friday, with my two-year-old granddaughter and her three-month-old brother. I change up to 12 diapers a day. My fingernails have Desitin under them. Even as I write these words, I can smell old spit up milk and peanut butter crackers on my shirt. My sweaty, wrinkled, stinky old T shirt.

I wash faces 20 times a day. I brush tiny teeth. I read the same book over. and over. and over.

I chip baby pukies off the bottoms of my chairs. I do laundry ever other day just so I can have a clean burp cloth and at least one clean facecloth.

I can name every single character in “Finding Dory” and sing all the songs from “Moana.”

Thirty years ago, this would have made me insane.

But now I love it, poopie smells and all.

And it makes me wonder how a young feminist became such an old softie. How did I go from wanting to change the world to cheering when my little girl does pee-pee in the potty?

I’m not sure.

But I’ve given it a lot of thought, mostly while rocking babies to sleep.

So here are some of my thoughts on the subject of staying at home to nurture babies:

It’s easier now. It’s so much easier not to take every tantrum and every ignored meal personally.

From the vantage point of old age, I realize that little kids are tiny humans with their own moods and temperaments. They have their likes and dislikes. They have bad days. It is not about me. I would never have understood that as a young Momma.

It’s easier to let myself be a slob now. Nobody is looking at me and thinking, “wow, she let herself go.” If the neighbors see me outside in my flannel pants and baggy sweatshirt, pushing a double stroller, they think, “Oh, good for her!” They don’t think, “She looks like hell. Where is her self-respect?” At thirty, I could never have let myself be so comfortable.

And most of all, at the happy age of 61, I no longer feel like I need to prove myself to the world. Unlike my young, eager, unproven self, I am now happy to accept the fact that I am just fine. I have earned my place in the universe. I have raised three great humans. I have had a solid and successful career. I still have interesting and thoughtful friends. I read. I write. I vote. I’m enough for me.

So if my entire morning is spent playing with Playmobile jungle animals and eating gold fish out of paper cups….who the hell cares?

I am so very grateful that when I was a young mother with a full head of steam and lots of ambition, I had a place to do good work. And I am even more grateful that now, when I am finally ready to accept myself for who I have become, I am able to spend my days making home-made playdoh and watching Elmo’s Playhouse.

I am a stay at home Nonni and I’m proud of it!


Yes, these are our toys.

A Parable, Perhaps?

Three acorns fell from the oak behind our house.

One landed softly in a pile of old rotted leaves. The second landed half on the soft leaves, and half on an area of pea stone. The third acorn fell onto the driveway.

After two weeks, the first acorn had sent two roots into the ground below its shell. It had simply and effortlessly split that shell and grown its two tender roots to feel the soil and search for moisture and nutrients.

The second little acorn had split in exactly the same way as his brother, and had sent out two little roots to look for life. One root found itself safely encased in leaf mold, but the second root had to struggle and bend and search-reach-search until it finally found a tiny space between the stones, where it desperately dug itself into the earth.

The third acorn simply lay where it had fallen. There was no nurturing earth below it. There was nowhere for a root to take hold. The shell of this acorn stayed whole. No roots were ever sent out into the world.

Six months passed, and winter was giving way to spring.

The first acorn had produced a little tree. It had a thin, straight trunk and three sets of leaves. As the spring sun struck it, it worked happily to make new leaves and to reach toward the sky.

The second acorn had also sent up a trunk, and had managed to make one set of leaves. His trunk leaned hard to the left, because only half of him was supported by good soil. He worked hard. Harder than he thought he’d ever work. Each day was a struggle, but he kept on reaching, reaching, reaching for the sunny sky.

The third acorn sat on the hard blacktop of the drive. It had been frozen, and thawed and frozen again. There was one crack in the bottom of the acorn shell, but no root had come out. There was nowhere for that root to go.

Another six months passed with the seasons. The first little acorn was long gone. In its place there stood a small but sturdy oak. Tiny branches sprouted from its growing trunk, reaching easily toward the sky. It had soil and rain. It had strong roots to benefit from them both. It had taken its place in the woods, and could grow and thrive and one day drop its own little acorns onto the earth below its feet.

The second acorn had also created a little oak, because it landed just on the edge of the drive. This oak was thinner, and not quite as straight as its brother, but it also had three sets of leaves and was reaching ever higher toward the sky. This little tree might make it, if no car drifts off the pavements, and if no new owners decide to repave. It is more vulnerable to drought and wind than its brother, but if all goes well, it could one day be a full grown oak tree, too.

The third acorn is gone now. It never opened, never sent out a shoot, never had its chance to grow into a tree. It simply fell in a place that couldn’t support it, and it died before it had gone through one winter.


Was the first acorn smarter, more caring, more deserving than the others? Was the third one guilty of some unknown crime? Was the little oak that faced a lifetime of struggle somehow at fault for landing in an imperfect place?

Of course not. We all know that. We all know that for acorns and oaks, life or death is just the luck of the draw. We don’t think that there is a God who chooses which acorns will do well and which will end up as food for a squirrel.

So was it the mother oak’s fault that some of her offspring fared better than the others?

Nope. We wouldn’t even ask that question. And we wouldn’t ask why one oak tree dropped its acorns on fertile soil while another only had pavement below.

Life is what it is. Fragile, amazing, random, unplanned.

Just as no God sits on a mighty throne deciding which acorn should survive, there is no God deciding who should have children easily and who should be infertile. There is no God passing judgement on which children will thrive and which land on pavement.

The oak tree isn’t responsible for the fate of the acorns. Every oak is designed by nature to drop those acorns onto the very best soil. But no oak has control over whether or not that happens.

Life is a miracle. Life is a gift. Lift is a matter of where we land, and what nutrients we can reach, and how close we are able to get to the sun.


My Dad

My Dad could fix anything. He fixed pipes, cars, broken toys, cracked walkways.

He was a builder. He built shelves and storage sheds. He created furniture and toys and additions on the house. His hands were sure and capable. He frowned when he worked, puzzling over a problem, a pencil always over his left ear.

On Saturdays, he’d work in the yard. He would weed, screen loam, spread grass seed, prune the bushes. There always seemed to be something for him to be doing.

I remember him coming in for lunch, in a white t shirt or a sweatshirt, that pencil still on his ear. We would have Italian cold cuts. Mortadella, salami, capicola, provolone cheese. He’d put hot peppers on his sandwich if he had a cold.

On hot days, Dad would sprinkle salt into his beer. I never asked why, but in my childhood it seemed like a right of passage.

Dad could make pancakes. On Saturday mornings he’d let my Mom sleep in a bit, and he’d sit with his kids watching the Three Stooges and the Little Rascals. He’d sit on the floor, his back against the couch. We would perch on his legs and nestle into each side of him.

He’d laugh. Loud and exuberant, unrestrained, big open mouthed guffaws at the antics on TV.

Then he would make us pancakes.

Eventually, Mom would come down the hall, in her robe. Dad would always grab her and kiss her with the ardor of a teenager. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he’d ask his wide eyed children.  We readily agreed.

Dad was patient. He tried like a saint to teach me the concept of algebra. I never mastered it, but he never gave up.

Dad was generous. He was honest. He had more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known.

When my Father died, the line to get into his wake was so long that it wrapped around the building. People he’d known for years mixed with people he’d met in his job. They came with thanks, and they came with sadness. They came to tell us how much he’d meant to them.

Our Dad was loving. His adored our Mother, the love of his life. He loved all six of each children, and every one of his grandchildren. He made time for us. He listened.

I see him in the dark brown eyes of my granddaughter, and I see him in each of my children. I hear his voice as I walk in the quiet woods. I feel his breath on my cheek as I drift to sleep with a baby in my arms.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

I love you.

My name is…

I’ve been thinking about names lately. My daughter and her husband are going to have their second child soon. We know that it will be a little boy, and they have settled on a name for him.

He will be named for a well loved Great Grampa who died a few months ago. It’s perfect, right?

But I’ve been thinking about how names sound, and the impression that they give. I’ve been thinking about names that sound like a person you’d trust. And names that make you shake your head and wonder if those parents hated that kid.

As a confirmed lefty, I’ve been doing my part to support the Our Revolution movement. That’s the next step in the Bernie Sanders movement, if you don’t know. Very vibrant, very interesting group, and I’m happy to help! So I’ve been doing some data entry for them.

Which means that I have been seeing some amazing names.

I won’t use any real ones here, of course, but to young parents everywhere, let me just say that before you slap a monicker on that adorable little bundle, THINK about how that name will read in 30 years when some old lady is putting it into a data base.

Some names inspire trust. I would want my doctor to be named “Michael Hampshire.” Solid, not too flashy, unpretentious. “Jennifer Worth.”  Yup. She can do my cardiac surgery, for sure.

Other names make me want to write a short story that involves a diner, a lonely waitress and a quietly insane fry-cook. “Sarah Bluette” and “Jace Pratchett” fit right in there, don’t you think?

Then there are the names that you know Mom and Dad chose because they were so adorable and original! They did not picture the kids in sixth grade making fun of little “Sharley McRoggle” or “Kerreigh Koyne.”

And some names make me just feel humble. The names that ring of truth and strength. Names that are unapologetically ethnic or racially proud. Names that mean, “I am not going to melt into the pot, no sir. I intend to be the spice in your potato soup.” Names that are spelled originally or names that hark back to older generations. “Karim” is a personal favorite of mine. “Sasha” or “LiYu” or “Epiphania” or “Dougal” or “Shaquan.”

My mom’s name is Vincenza, but she is known as Zena. That’s very cool.

Our names are, in some odd ways, our destiny.

I was aware of this when I was at the Woman’s March in DC not long ago. I was with my High School friend, Karen. As we moved through the surging crowds to get onto the Metro, we heard a voice calling, “Karen! Over here!” We both turned, of course, and we saw a woman our age, waving to her friend.

All the Karens in the US, it seems, were born between 1952 and 1958. You’re not going to find a Karen in kindergarten, although you might very well find a “Helen,” an “Alice” or an “Ed.”

When I was naming my own kids, I was careful. Paul and I thought about how the names sounded. We like the ‘th’ sound, it turns out. We have Katharine, Matthew and Timothy in our family. But we were also thinking of nicknames.

Being named Paul and Karen meant that we didn’t have a lot of nicknames. There’s not much you can do with the labels we got at birth.

We wanted our kids to have some flexibility. If they became businesspeople or lawyers or politicians, those full names would work. If they became teachers, or coaches or athletes, they’d have cool nicknames. Katie, Matty, Timmy.

Naturally, all three of them now go by Kate, Matt and Tim.

Still. A lot of thought went into those names. A lot.

Yours truly,

“Boots” aka “Karen” aka Kira aka Karima and now known as Nonni.