I am in my room and reading Calvin and Hobbes when my dad knocks on the door. He says oh Maddie, your mom and I have a fun surprise for you. You're gonna love it very much he says. What is it? I say. It is a dessert he says. Just come with me. I sit at the end of the dining table and he says one thing first. He puts a scarf over my eyes and ties it around my head and he says I want you to guess what it is. My parents laugh as I lift the spoon into my mouth. Then I take off my blindfold and I look on the plate. I scream and I run to my room and I pull the covers over my head and I cry and I try not to think about it being in my mouth. My dad comes in and he's laughing very hard but I am not laughing because it is not funny to me. He says I'm very sorry and he tries to hold in his laughter like a bucket with too much water in it but it keeps spilling out. He says sorry Maddie sorry but you liked it but you liked it. NO I DIDN'T LIKE IT I DID NOT LIKE IT. That was very gross I am going to throw up I will not forgive you for that. He says no no it's okay I didn't mean to make you so sad it is okay calm down. You said it would be a good nice surprise and I believed you and you tricked me. I am still crying and still angry and I am not going to put on a blindfold ever again. He says you liked it and I still say no no no no no no no until he goes away and then when he leaves I rinse my mouth out and try to forget like you do when you see your Christmas present by accident. My dad comes back down and my mom is still thinking it is a funny joke to play on somebody. He says I am sorry you may have a root beer float if you would like and I say yes please but I am still sniffling.
If you look my name up on the internet, baby name websites will tell you that it means “son of the mighty warrior” or “son of Maude”, whoever that is. Y’know my English teacher in the sixth grade assigned my class to find and talk about the meanings of our names. I’ll admit, when I was met with what those sites said, as a sixth grade girl, it was about as easy to relate to as a microwave oven. I was surrounded by friends like Sarah, whose name means “princess” or Lane whose name means “meadow”. All pretty things that if you could smell them, would probably smell good and feminine. Sugar and spice and everything nice, so it goes. But I was sitting there with “the son of the mighty warrior” staring at me from the screen of my computer. I wondered if my parents knew what it meant or if they just named me this way because they liked the way it sounded or something shallow like that. When I asked my dad about my name and where it came from, he chuckled at me. He said that he and my mom scoured countless baby books looking for a name for me. He also mentioned that my mom was a teacher when they found out that I was going to be a girl. She actually put an envelope at the front of her room that said “Name my baby. It’s a girl!!!”. She hoped that it would make a good story for later if they ended up using one of the names that her students suggested. Most of the students were sweet and sincere. Sadly, they were also sincerely bad at both coming up with names that weren’t horrible, and reading. By that I mean that many of the submitted names were either ugly names, or boy’s names. Others didn’t even pretend to care. Highlights include: “Al Gore”, “Freek-Zilla”, “Quackers”, and many more. All of that being said, my name wasn’t one of the gems provided by my mom’s class.
When I told my dad what my name meant and asked him if he knew when he and my mom picked it, he said that they did. He said that when they were looking, they wanted to find something for me that was strong, but still feminine. Something that would be easy to shorten into a nickname so that it sounded cute when they heard other kids calling it. Something that could still sound serious if they had to yell it every once in a while, like parents do. Then, after their fair share of brainstorming they found it: Sydney. It was perfect. It had all of the qualities they were looking for. Unfortunately, just before I was born, my cousin Debbie named her daughter Sydney. In a big family like mine, it’s hard to find good baby names that haven’t already been used. Madison was the consolation prize name. They say that when they “met me” they knew that Madison was the better choice, but sometimes I wonder if that’s just what they tell themselves so that they don’t have to be forever mad at Debbie, who we don’t even see that much. I’m kind of known for overthinking things, but hear me out. You are born. Your parents name you. Your whole life starts there. The second you are given your name, an infinite amount of branches of the space-time continuum break off from that moment like a firework. That is to say, that there are hypothetically infinite universes in which you exist, but your name is different, and maybe your life is different as a result. So based on that, one might say that what your parents name you is critical. Knowing that I will only ever know how my life is in this universe and with this name, I am quite content with the way my life has unfolded, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve done. I guess I owe everything that I know, everything that I am, and everything that I’ll ever be to my name. So thanks a bunch, “son of the mighty warrior”. I owe you one.
Boys & Girls
It was up in good ol’ Mancelona Michigan three or so summers ago. That was when my cousins Michael and Bradley, who are both more or less my same age wanted to believe that girls and boys don’t do each other’s things. I have a big big big family on my mom’s side. My mom says that it’s because we are Mexican and something about that makes us stick together but I don’t know. It might be the fact that we all love each other. That might be it. The words “big family” in my experience don’t just mean that you have a lot of people in your family. Anyone can whip out a family tree and name sixty people who they are distantly related to. For me, big family means that you have a lot of people in your family and you are close with them. I only recently realized that I am closer with my mom’s mom’s aunt’s daughter’s kids than most of my friends are with their first cousins. A lot of people are familiar with around thirty five of their relatives. Not a lot of people have spent a week in a three bedroom cabin in the middle of nowhere with thirty-five relatives at once.
All of that being said, having Michael and Bradley as my first cousins basically means that we are as close as siblings. Since we were very little we have always been close in that way where you love each other, but once in a while you get on each others’ nerves so you take a day apart and then everything’s better. This one summer though, was the one where we had all reached the age (you know the one) where the wall between boys and girls was the hardest to cross over. It was like after all of our years of fun, somebody told them that we were different and they couldn't un-realize it. Silly me for not knowing that girls and boys can’t have the same fun. When I realized they were trying to cut me out, it was like having that giant bucket of cold water poured abruptly on your head at a water park. I was confused and afraid that now that our relationship had changed, it might not change back. I was determined to fix it. No matter what it took. We had all gone down to the lake and I was prepared to do summer like we always had, whether or not they liked it. My cousin Conner was there too. He’s six years older than we are and had always been the guy to go to when you wanted a game to bring people together. Conner and I combined basketball with truth or dare and Michael and Bradley were going to play with us. Through my commitment to the game, even as it escalated, I proved myself. I think it was right when I let them roll me down a hill in a full trash barrel that they realized that things had never changed. As I lowered myself into the barrel, I brought with me the barriers and the stereotypes that were separating me from my cousins. When I climbed out at the bottom of the hill, I left them behind. So maybe girls can do boy things and boys can do girl things and the world will keep spinning.