Posts in family
'Vegetable hole' and other terms of endearment
Photo by  Jon Tyson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I’ve often wondered about Nick. Not Saint Nick, and not the one who almost ran out of time. The other Nick. The one who must have been incredibly skilled at terms of endearment. 

Everyone in this Nick’s hometown most definitely had the name on their birth certificate, and the name Nick gave them. I picture him as a jovial wielder of words whose labeling felt like a verbal hug from your best friend.

He was a friendly guy who walked around with blank name tags, waving the ancient equivalent of a giant Sharpie and issuing nicknames, maybe like the United Kingdom knights people. Can you see it? 

As Nick, the naming monarch, moves the oversized quill from your right shoulder to your left shoulder, you wait expectantly to hear what would follow the words “I now dub you…” As he speaks, the crowd that has gathered begins to nod with approval and admiration at how perfectly the name fits you. Nick writes the name on a piece of cloth, pins it to your shirt and shakes your hand. You stand, smile and start repeating your nickname with excitement as you hurry to tell your friends. 

The nickname force is strong with my family, although I fear it’s mutated significantly since the imaginary scene described above. Names other than the ones given to people, places and things roll off our tongues like a fluent second language. To be fully forthcoming, I should note that many times that second language is actually jibberish. We often see blank stares and confused expressions if we slip up and use these odd and affectionate titles in public. 

So, get your brows ready to lift or furrow, because I’m bringing you into the family. Here we go!

How it began

The gene grows stronger over time, but it was a slow start for me. In elementary school, I called my sister Foopy for a couple of years and she called me Acapulco. Not very creative, I know.  Foopy is clearly just a rip-off of the more commonly known Schmoopie. We were young and apparently had just looked at a map of Mexico.  

Our dog, whose given name was Blessing, was christened by my dad as Bud-nicky Peatums. Bonus points for that one. Five syllables, straight-outta-nowhere and made us laugh really loud.

There were a few more typical terms in the mix. My mom often called my dad Daddy-boy, and he answered her with a Baby-doll. To me, my Mom was Mamma Schmamma, and eventually, I started calling her Marmie after one of our favorite movies to watch together, Little Women.

How it still is

Even as an adult, I still conjure up fun things to call people. During one visit to my parent’s house, I stood at the top of the stairs calling out to my dad. “Daaaa-aaad!” No answer. “Dad!” No answer. He couldn’t hear me over the radio he had blasting downstairs. I resorted to calling him something close to his given name Richard, “Ricky!” “Rick!” Still no answer, and I couldn’t be bothered to walk downstairs.

It started somewhere deep in my belly. I felt it surging up through my chest and shoulders. My neck began to sway and my bottom jaw flexed open wide. “Rrrriiiiiiii-tcheeeeeeeeey!” It was a high-pitched, gargly bellow, like Scuttles from Little Mermaid. I was channeling the matriarch from All in the Family. Can you hear it? “Aaaaaarrrrrrrrr-cheeeeeeeey!”

It worked, and the moniker Ritchie was born for my dad. It stuck, like a nametag from our patron labeler Nick himself. 

Places are also not off limits. Ritchie not-so-affectionately refers to a soup and salad restaurant as the Vegetable Hole. I think he equates it to culinary solitary confinement with no access to red meat or apple pie. No hunter wants to be drug to that leafy, green hole. 

Mom, Marmie, and Dad, Ritchie

Mom, Marmie, and Dad, Ritchie

As I reflect on nicknames, it’s clear to me that my father is a blackbelt. He should advance to the elite ranks of those individuals who hand out one-of-a-kind aka’s. In fact, I think the original Nick would be OK with me coining the term rickname. Congratulations, Ritchie, you’ve earned it.  

I appreciate most nicknames I’ve been given over the years by people I know and love. These playful and sometimes goofy names make me smile. 

What nicknames have you given to people or things you love?


Catch up: If you’re new here, check out some of the previous blogs. We talk about verbal processing, finding comfort in God, and His incredible love, along with several lighter attempts at humor. You can get to know me on the about page. Glad you’re here!

A walk down birthday memory lane
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Birthdays. The day we celebrate our messy, claustrophobic journey toward post-uterine light and oxygen and make an entrance into the world. The day we are smacked on the backside and utter our first cry bringing overwhelming joy, and perhaps fear, to our parents.

Birthdays are on my mind because I recently had one. Birthdays can be fun. Cake, presents, games, friends, family, homemade animal costumes, surprises that underwhelm and awkward suggestions.

You are no doubt wondering about those last three. Let’s start with the homemade animal costume. Memorable birthdays for my family include me dressing up under duress as a skunk for my younger sister’s birthday party when I was about seven or eight. The year before my debut as the love interest of Pepe le Pew, my parents paid to have a children’s entertainer show up as Smurfette in blue body paint and the white hat, dress and heels. It was an absolute thrill for my sister and her friends and set high expectations for future parties.

The next year the budget must have been tighter or we fell prey to procrastination because Smurfette was no longer an option. Instead, my poor, little sister’s guest of honor was her poor big sister in a black leotard and tights with cotton balls taped to her tuchus. I’m told my attitude by the end of the party lived up to odor associated with the furry, smelly rodent whose likeness I bore, and that my sister was mostly unimpressed. Bless both of our hearts.

Now, on to your other obvious question, the underwhelming surprise. For one of my dad’s thirty-something birthdays, my mom got him a new bamboo rocking chair that swiveled. The cushions were that rusty shade of burnt orange that was all the rage in the 80’s. She sweetly wanted it to be a surprise and tried to make him think the gift was something entirely unrelated. Good idea, but it all went sadly wrong.

Mom kept hinting that we got him a four wheeler. The thing is, dad is an outdoorsman, a hunter who wears camo for fun, hangs antlers anywhere she lets him and had dreamed of owning a four wheeler for years. When he opened that giant, cardboard box, I’d never seen a person’s face go from smiling to not, so quickly. The mark was well-missed on under-promise and over-deliver. Dad’s such a fantastic, easy-going, contented sport. He was quick to rally, and he happily rocked in that orange thing until it creaked its last breath years later.

Finally, on to the third thing you must be curious about, the awkward suggestion. A week or so before my dad’s birthday a few years ago, I told him and my mom they should get a large sleeping bag, grease it with cooking oil and zip it up. Then, naturally, my dad should make a running start, dive on his belly and go barreling through it, bursting through the zippered end to re-enact his birth. My head flew back as I belly-laughed. I found this idea highly worthy of calorie-burning merriment. My parents, on the other hand wore shocked expressions that said the imagery was just too much. Needless to say, they went another direction for the celebration.

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Flashback

This was on a 5x7 banner for my 40th birthday!

Like I mentioned at the start, birthdays are on my mind because I recently had one, a big one. The one that rhymes with shorty. I said goodbye to 30, flirty and thriving and bid those humbling, confidence-building, self-finding years adieu. I said come hither and “Helllllooooo, beautiful!” to the next decade, looking forward to finding everything there is to be found in my forties.

As I reflected on the first four decades of life, I thought of happy memories. Many of them involve family and friends I’ve been blessed to make across states and an ocean. Many include humor, and others center on meaningful work that has made a positive impact in some small way. Sad memories also crossed my mind. Unmet expectations, loneliness, physical and emotional pain, loved ones who are no longer here.

Throughout the rolling waves of these memories, one sense floated to the top – a sense of gratitude for God’s faithfulness. He’s been there for every moment good and bad.

One heartbreaking experience in my thirties proved to me yet again that He was near. When a friend died suddenly and tears were my constant companion, He was with me. When I asked why and wondered if I could have done something, He was with me. When I sat numb in church and cried my way through worship every Sunday for the next year, He was with me. When I think about her on the anniversary of her passing each November, He is with me, and He softly reminds me He is with her too.

The older we get, the more life we live, the more we see that life is the gift. God is the gift. It is with sincere thanks that I look back on my life so far, and it is with anticipation that I cast my gaze forward even with the unavoidable loses.  

I’m glad I was born. I’m glad my mom ate her Wheaties and said “Heeee, heeeeee, hoooo!” over and over again one August morning in 1978. I’m glad my dad stood next to her in his polyester, mid-thigh athletic shorts with a stop watch around his neck timing her contractions. I’m glad for another birthday in the blessed books even if there was no skunk costume. I will continue to look fondly on the memory of the underwhelming surprise, and, don’t worry, I’ll continue to provide awkward suggestions to the chagrin of some and the comedic pleasure of others.

What about you? Why are you grateful for your most recent or upcoming birthday? How have you experienced God’s nearness in the ups and downs of life?

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