coining a phrase, bug horror, and fowl language

From a recent email exchange:

Jagosaurus: Random thought I keep forgetting to articulate: Sometimes I wish we would jointly post (edited) versions of some of our conversations. We B Funny.

Elsa: Oooh, blog fodder! Uh. I don’t have to post that part*, right?

J: You do not.

E: Sold!

J:  Excellent.  What happens next?

E: Yeeeeeah, I thought you’d know that.  I, uh, something.

Here’s what happens next. Let’s start at the beginning. (Salty language and insect horrors ahead.) Continue reading



Grief follows hard on the heels of joy. Our family has gained a member and lost one, in quick succession. It’s a maelstrom of emotion, mixing up love and loss and celebration and sorrow — and that’s just this week. Who knows what next week will bring? Whatever it is, we’ll face it together. That’s what counts.

We cannot escape grief, nor should we wish to, because grief gives gravity to our happiness; it shows us the depth of our love by showing us how we would (and how we will) cry for our loved ones when they pass out of our ken.

But for the moment, I am not interested in philosophy or rationalizations or the graceful balance of grief and joy: I only want to love my family, old and new, and offer love and support, to take comfort in our shared laughter and tears and stories and remembrances, to supply gelato cones and handkerchiefs and hugs and a soft shoulder, should anyone need it.

what’s in a name

At a gathering of The Fella’s family — and let’s just call them The Beardface Family! — we had occasion to introduce a friend to The Fella’s mother. (For the sake of his privacy, here I’ll dub our friend Mike Smallbaker. That’s not quite right, but it’s the same construction: first name, and a last name composed of a common adjective and old-timey occupation.)

Later, The Fella’s Mother asked about his unusual surname, and The Fella told her that it was a hybrid: when they married, M. and his wife R. decided to combine their two last names into one.

The Fella’s Mother turned to me and, not for the first time, asked me, “So, Elsa, when you’re married, will you be a [Beardface]?”

Now, listen.

I am not changing my name, and The Fella’s Mother knows that, because she’s already asked me. We’ve had this conversation a coupla times already, and I’ve answered sweetly and earnestly. Twice.


This time, I said, absolutely deadpan, “No, actually, we’re doing what M. and R. did.”

TFM, game as always, said, “Oh?”

“Yup. We’re both changing our names to Smallbaker.”

My future brother-in-law, sitting nearby, laughed until he tipped off the edge of his chair. The Fella’s Mother, um, did not.

note: Though I’m razzing her a little here, The Fella’s Mother is a lot of fun, and she — like the entire Beardface family — has gone out of her way to welcome me from the first day I met them, and to shower us with love and affection as we approach the wedding day. I’m stunned and grateful to have such loving in-laws, and even more grateful that they can take a joke.


I recently wrote about a friend’s potluck wedding reception, where family and friends fed each other, sharing their joy and love with the happy couple. The Fella and I aren’t having a potluck wedding, but for the past few months, I’ve been musing that our DIY wedding feels like a barnraising: our loved ones keep enthusiastically pitching in, lending their strength and talents to help us build something of value.

If you browse wedding forums or advice columns, you’ll soon bump into shrill warnings against this approach. Naysayers dismiss the handmade, homemade, shared nature of the event. It’s tacky, it’s rude, it’s cheap. It’s inconsiderate to expect guests to contribute to Your Special Day.

Of course guests don’t want to do your dirty work, but you can accept loving assistance (and even ask for it) without being rude or demanding. Some thoughts guiding our own requests:

– Our friends miiiiight enjoy showcasing their talents. They would not enjoy predictable drudgery; we’ll pay people for that.
– Any guest’s wedding-day contribution should be brief. Everyone wants to have fun!
– Things will go wrong. It doesn’t matter. If the cake falls over, if the photos don’t come out, if the iPod freezes… we’ll still be married at the end of the day.
-If anyone seems hesitant, for any reason or for no reason at all, we’ll withdraw our request.
If we ask you to consider helping out, it’s because we value your talent and we trust your judgment. That includes the judgment that leads you to say, “No, I’d rather not.”
In fact, we’ve made few requests so far; our family and friends keep amazing us with their offers of help, offers far more generous, creative, and serendipitous than we could have imagined.
Behind the click is a loooooong list of the help being offered, and a few requests we plan to make.

Continue reading

mailbox: a shameful secret

Having memorialized my late father, I must confess the dread, sorry truth that I kept from him as he lay on his deathbed. It was too horrible for him to face.

The dark secret is revealed at last: the door to their mailbox had come ever so slightly off its hinge, leaving the mail just barely exposed to the elements. When I walked down the long driveway and out the private road to the mailbox to collect Mom and Dad’s mail, I brushed a faint dusting of snow (or, sometimes — oh, god! — droplets of rain!) from the pile of envelopes and magazines before carrying them back to the house.

I never told Dad that the mail sometimes got damp. Knowing that would have been too great a strain on his mind.*

Shortly after Dad’s death, my brother-in-law J, a cheerful, practical fellow, rolled up his sleeves, yanked the old mailbox out of place, and screwed into place the shiny new mailbox from the hardware store! Yay!


Hey… yay, right?

Not, as it turns out, yay. At least, not according to my mother, whose disapproval of the new mailbox came out in sighs and gusts of faint dismay. The new mailbox, you see, was a bit larger than the old one, and it somehow violated the, I dunno, dimensional balance of the previous arrangement. And this was bad.

How bad?

In my mother’s words, “Thank God your father’s dead. He would have hated to see that.”

My mother, whose words were in earnest, was understandably puzzled when sister Gaoo and I dissolved into (equally understandable) frantic hoots of laughter. For months after (and still occasionally, three years later), our conversations were laced with the phrase “Thank God your father’s dead!”

*And if you think I’m kidding about that, you never knew Dad, never saw him get agitated about a scratch on a tableleg, or coasterless glasses, or spots on a book jacket. A mailbox door hanging ajar, and his infuriating inability to do anything about it, would have made him wring his hands in futile worry.