Sunday

Seven Things About Me (sort of)

I have been tagged (again!) by the lovely, lyrical and intelligent Evelyne at Rose Nell’ Insalata, and since I was one of only two people she tagged, I feel so honored that I have to respond!

The only trouble is, as usual, I can’t help feeling that I’ve over-shared. This is a problem of mine, in the blogosphere if not in real life (in real life nobody knows the first thing about me, except maybe that I’m a little stuck-up and don’t show my face in public very often. The stuck-up thing...that’s not true. Actually, I’m just very private. Except with my family - with them, I’m a total goofball).

Evelyne did a beautiful job with tag (if you can read French, go read her version!), and made it sweet and genuine and very much her own. So I hope I’ll be forgiven if I adapt it a little again. Instead of seven things about me in particular, I’m going to post seven things about people in my family. And really, that’s still about me, right?

So here goes:

1. - I came up with my daughter’s name when I was on roadtrip alone in Western Arizona. There are long, looooooooooong stretches of open road with very little to look at on the rout that leads south along the Western side of Colorado and New Mexico, and with the exception of my dog, I had no one to talk to. Instead I spent the hours listening, for maybe the third time, to my favorite Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) book, Coastliners, on CD.
I don’t know many people who have read Coastliners, but it’s a wonderful book about families and the concept of home, and it takes place on a small, stark, windblown island off the coast of France. I love everything about this book, and in particular the characters. One of the main characters is a man who calls himself Flynn. Now, I have always loved Irish names, just as I have always loved Irish men (I now have one of each!). And Flynn as a name has all sorts of lovely, thrilling connotations for me. It has a pirate flavor (thanks, probably, to Errol Flynn). It has the grey-green, mossy flavor of the Irish coast. And thanks to this book, it also has for me the taste of salt spray whipped against the face by high winds, the fickleness of ever-shifting sands in the hands of the wild sea, the stark beauty and tenacity of a wildflower clinging to a torn and jagged cliff.
Me and my pirate-mother on our own wind-whipped coastline

At the time that I went on this roadtrip, we had just recently made our first move together, from the mountains to the Front Range, and the two of us were dancing around the idea of marriage and parenthood. We were still in the thrilling/ scary phase of tossing around the idea of a child before we had really jumped in with both feet.
When I returned from the road, the subject of a child came up again.
“How about Flynn?” I said, only half-serious. “It could work for either a boy or a girl.”
To my surprise, my then-boyfriend pounced on the name, and over the months, as our discussions circled and circled, grew more and more serious, the name “Flynn” stuck. It was nearly three years between that roadtrip and the day we first met our daughter, but Flynn it was, and Flynn it has always been. Q, by the way, is an initial from her Chinese “milk name”, which we still call her because it seems suitable for a little one. But she has recently come to understand that Q and Flynn are both equally her names.

2 - There is another part to the story of the name Flynn, and this part concerns my mother. It is also a story that goes a long way toward explaining my mother as a person, because it is so characteristic of her.
The Dread Pirate Terry, in her 20s.

My mother was born in Holland and raised in France until she was 10. Her parents fled to the US when the war reached France, since my Dutch grandfather was an engineer and was able to get work easily enough in New York. Now, my mother has a name that seems innocuous enough. It should be pronounceable in most languages. And yet, in the US there was a different pronunciation for it than in France, and my mother hated the sound of it. She thought it made her name sound harsh and ugly. Though she quickly adapted to the language, she never got used to the pronunciation of her name, and at the age of about 13, she took matters into her own hands and changed it. She re-named herself Terry after the children’s adventure series Terry and the Pirates. At the time, Terry was a boy’s name, and that (along with the pirate factor) was the main attraction for my mother. My mother was an is a die hard tomboy. Despite her staggering beauty (in her twenties she was offered modeling contracts and marriage proposals right an left) she never wore makeup, and was rarely seen in a dress outside of her wedding. To this day, she is an outdoorswoman and an adventurer, and travels the world fly fishing and painting wildlife.
The name, by the way, stuck, and Terry she was until well into her forties when she changed it back to her original European name.
So, I thought it was appropriate that my daughter, in the tradition of a long line of stubborn, adventurous and impetuous women, should have a pirate name, too.
Some of the stubborn and impetuous women mentioned above.

3 - My father’s story is a very different one. Though his mother’s family had been rather large-scale landowners in New Mexico since before it became a part of the US (the Martinez home in Wagonmound, NM is now a museum and historical site), by the time my father was born they were quite poor. A family of 14, they lived in the early years in a one-room shack with a dirt floor, and did migrant work when they needed to in order to survive. The family spoke only Spanish, and the children had to teach themselves English in order to integrate into the school system. Nevertheless, my father was ambitious and intelligent, and made valedictorian of his high school class. By that time, the family was living in Denver (what comes around goes around, I guess!). With no money to go to college, he instead apprenticed himself to Colorado artist Frank Mechau, in whose Redstone studio he worked for years. At the age of 19, he won a government-sponsored art competition and became one of the WPA muralists, painting historical murals in government buildings throughout Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. (If the timeline sounds strange here, my father was 20 years my mother’s senior, so really he was of a previous generation).

My handsome and brooding father during his WPA days

In the ‘50s, he moved to the artists’ colony of Woodstock (now more widely known for the 1969 concert which did not, as it happens, take place there....but that’s another story). From there on out, his career took off. He was a Fulbright fellow, a member of the Woodstock Artists Association, and a teacher at the Art Student’s League of New York. His work showed at the Whitney, MOMA and the Met. In addition, he was a world-traveler, a flamenco guitarist, and a folk singer of some note in Woodstock during the heyday of folk music (he played with Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger).
My father's gorgeous painting, "Ode to Billy the Kid", one of my all-time favorites, from later in his career.

Hmmmmmmm...lest I ramble on, I think I’m going to split this tag into two parts, and do the rest another day! More to come...maybe I’ll tell you a little something about my husband next time!

(By the way, I tag anyone who can think of a creative way to adapt this tag to their own story!)

7 comments:

Anne said...

I am looking forward to reading the next part ! I love the way you twisted the tag. We are always part of a larger story...

Merisi said...

I haven't read your answers yet,
but I am touched by your deep sincerity in giving credit to other bloggers. That is truly endearing to me. And now to read on ....

Merisi said...

I empathize with your mother changing her name. I did not outright change my name, but started to insist on pronouncing it the Italian way when I moved from Rome to DC. I felt I was losing my identity when people used all sorts of creative ways to anglicize it.

The picture of you and your mom at the beach is breathtaking, as is your mom's beauty in the other one.

Ghibli said...

this post was so inspiring! Thank you for sharing you beautiful family history with us.

The Cottage Cheese said...

Your family is so fascinating! I am enormously interested in WPA and CCC programs, how cool that your father was a WPA muralist and later taught at the Art Student's League! It makes me feel happy thinking of the adventurous life that your Mom has chosen. And the story of how you came to name your daughter Flynn is very sweet. As usual, you've included the most beautiful photos. You should write a book!

Lonnie Hanzon said...

More, more! - You are a wonderful writer and have wonderful stories to tell us and Q. Thank you for sharing a clear sketch of your parents. Passionate people - like you -

FDChief said...

Too much? Never. Delightfully rich and richly delightful. Thank you for gifting your and your parents' stories to us...