MY NAME IS BITTER

I am named after an aunt I never met. In my version of a Jewish family, you don’t name babies after living people, only after those who have passed on. This is not true in all Jewish families. It depends on where you come from and your “tribe’s” traditions in the matter.

When I was born in 1947, there was a serious shortage of dead relatives after which to name me. Of course, there’s no law requiring you name your kid after a dead relative, but it certainly is the more popular path for naming. You don’t have to pick the whole name. You can just pick your favorite part of the name. Like, maybe the middle. Or the second middle. Or an Americanized version of the primary name — or what people who didn’t speak English thought the Americanized version might be. It accounts for the far-too-many boys named Isadore (for Itzchak or Isaac). Lacking a deep knowledge of English-language roots, baby’s name could be similar to the original Hebrew or Yiddish name by simply matching the first letter or syllable … a method resulting in some pretty bizarre names Jewish boys and girls spent a lifetime trying to lose. It’s too complicated to explain.

Even your Jewish friends can be reduced to tears of laughter. Most of us have Jewish names that we try to never mention. Anywhere. Ever. For any reason.

The only dead relative lurking about my family at the time of my birth was my grandmother’s cousin (or was it aunt?). Her name was Malka. Which means Queen in both Hebrew and Yiddish, so don’t start dissing me. The problem is that this is not a name that has an elegant North American “ring” to it.

My mother didn’t like it either and decided to name me “Mara” instead.

Mara is the Hebrew “root” word from which comes Mary, Marilyn, Maria and all the other “Mar” names. But Mara has music in it. I wouldn’t have minded it. I liked its tone in my ear.

It means “bitter.” If you don’t believe me, look it up.

The moment she told her the tribe I would be named Mara, the family leapt into the fray. “You can’t name her Mara. That means bitter! Who’d want a girl named bitter?” Mom was quite the individual, but there was only so much family pressure a woman could handle. They wore her down. Thus came Marilyn, which apparently was a great name for 1947. It remained a pretty hot name for a few more decades too.

On the other hand, Malka? Not a hit. Anywhere. Still stuck with it as my Jewish name. You don’t get to choose these things and anyone out there with one of those names they wish they didn’t have knows what I mean. I never liked my name. I still don’t like it. I don’t even know why I don’t like it. It isn’t mellow. Doesn’t have music. It’s just a name.

As a kid, I figured if I found a name I liked better, they might bestow it on me.


Me: “Mom, I’d like to be Linda. It means pretty.”

Mom: “No.”

Me: “Mom, could you call me Delores? It sound so romantic.”

Mom: “No.”


And so it went until I went to Israel where some fool told me I should use my Jewish name. I glared him down and stayed Marilyn. I could live with Marilyn, but Malka? Really? I knew two other North American ladies named Marilyn. All of us refused to change our names. Malka not only wasn’t a lovely name, it carried the whiff of “cleaning drudge.” I don’t know why. It just did.

So now, here I am. Seventy odd years later and I’m still Marilyn. Still fundamentally bitter. It doesn’t seem as bad as it did back in The Day. Whenever that was.

SWANS AND THE POND AT NORTHBRIDGE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It was quite the day for taking pictures. Not only were the swans enthusiastically cozy, but it was the last nice day of that entire week. We had a few minutes of sun today, but I think our first clear day will be Monday. If we are lucky.

The swans walked right up onto the land and gave me that look which screams: “FEED ME!” Sadly, I had nothing to hand out.

We’ve been following the life and times of our local swans for a long time. In a few weeks, the cygnets will be up and about. We’ll have to go back and take some more pictures as the family sets sail.

When the babies, mom and day go swimming on the pond, they look like a flotilla. A formation of huge swans setting forth into the world.

FOR THE LOVE OF BOATING – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I used to love traveling. I liked getting to stay in new places every night. I liked not being at home, not having to worry about dishes — and what to make for dinner.

Then we got a boat.

I learned the joys of traveling WITH your home. Now, it’s the only way I want to travel.

On the boat, there’s almost no packing or unpacking. Your “stuff” is always with you. You have your comfy chair, your high def TV. You can bring your dogs – and that’s a biggie for us. We like having our dogs with us when we explore new places. Besides, it gets expensive leaving them home with the dog sitter.

It gets complicated with the dogs when we drop anchor outside of a marina, which always has easy access to dog walking areas. When we’re “on the hook”, we have to load the dogs into our dinghy (think big inflated canvas rowboat) and drive them to a place on land where they can do their business.

It’s an adventure. The dogs love it, but it can get old at 11:00 at night or 6:00 in the morning.

Another thing I like about traveling with my house is that it comes with a fully stocked kitchen. We don’t have to stop what we’re doing three times a day to figure out where to eat. We can grab something simple for breakfast and lunch and just go out for a nice dinner when we feel like it. We can also cook on board, which is fun, or even grill on the dock since most marinas provide grills. It’s easier on the pocketbook and the waistline, too, especially if you’re away for more than a few days.

Traveling by boat suits our lifestyle. Even on vacation, we’re homebodies. We like to sit and read. Tom likes to play his video games or watch old movies. It’s so much nicer doing that on the water than in a hotel room, even a nice one. We’ve stayed in some wonderful condos. At best, a hotel or condo may feel like home. When we’re on our boat, we always feel like we’re on vacation.

That’s the best thing about our boat. We can go sit on it, in our marina, going nowhere, and still feel like we’re light years away from everyday life. It’s magical. I love the sounds of the water and the seagulls, the gentle rocking of the boat, the lapping of the waves. I love watching the water. It looks different at various times of day when the sun hits it at different angles.

I love watching the birds and the other boats too. And there’s the smell of the sea. You’re in a whole other world when you’re on the water.

Our marina has a swimming pool, picnic tables, grills, and a restaurant. It’s ideal for entertaining, so we do most of our entertaining at the dock. We take friends out for a ride up the Housatonic River or out to Long Island Sound. Then we come back to the dock for appetizers, drinks, and dinner. It’s a perfect set-up for a perfect day.

The 2017 boating season is just starting. It’s Tom’s favorite time of year – he has six whole months of boating ahead of him. When the boat comes out of the water in November, Tom goes into a form of emotional hibernation until the next season begins.

This was taken in January. The temperature that day was 75 degrees! In January!

So we’re at the start of Tom’s life cycle. Here’s to 2017 — on the water!

HAPPY ODDBALL BIRTHDAY!

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: May 7, 2017


Today being my son’s 48th birthday — and me clearly wondering how I got old enough to have a son who can sign up for AARP — today’s oddballs are the kind of pictures we all have tons of. Birthday pictures! Don’t we all have drawers full of these shots? Of the babies and toddlers. Of the little kids blowing out the candles, and the big kids getting a special something.

This is my son, getting his special present for this year. Happy birthday, Owen.