Tete-a-tete ArchivesAn eclectic sampling of my award-winning humor columns. New columns can be read online at www.nashuatelegraph.com on the first Thursday of the month, with columns posted here later in the month.
More in "Tete-a-tete"
- Tete-a-tete: Newsboys reunion concert elicits a nostalgia suckerpunch, yet reminds that awesomeness does not change
- Tete-a-tete: When it comes to cat toys, sometimes there are strings attached
- Tete-a-tete: Youngest Brother finds a hobby thanks to 'The Great British Baking Show'
- Tete-a-tete: Evolution of a football fan, or why I'm looking forward to Super Bowl LII
- Tete-a-tete: Younger Sister's penchant for staying on schedule never takes a holiday
- Tete-a-tete: Grandpa had a 'Wonderful Life'
- Tete-a-tete: Streamlined technology makes it easier to come home for the holidays - unlike when I was in college
- Tete-a-tete: Terrifying toys make childhood memorable
- Tete-a-tete: The pitfalls of dining out as a slow eater
- Tete-a-tete: Pop culture references lead to unexpected connections
- Tete-a-tete: "Handicapped accessible" doesn't really mean what people think it means
- Tete-a-tete: The ins and outs of the college moving experience
- Tete-a-tete: When dealing with cabin fever, this cat's on a roll
- Tete-a-tete: An artistic masterpiece 20 years in the making
- Tete-a-tete: Promp and circumstance: Modern-day prom prep
- Tete-a-tete: Blue Apron - a Pandora's box of weekly culinary adventures
- Tete-a-tete: Serve up a slice of family traditions, new or old
- Tete-a-tete: 'Family court' has a whole new meaning at our house
- Tete-a-tete: Drafted on the farm: Grandpa's war at home
- Tete-a-tete: With family, you have to give it the ol' college try
- Tete-a-tete: Walk a mile in my Boots: Viva la feline difference
- Tete-a-tete: Slacker movies offer unlikely heroes
- Tete-a-tete - Bag that theory: Purse contents aren't all that enlightening
- Tete-a-tete: Keeping up with the pace of modern-day elder care
- Tete-a-tete: Easter dinner reveals a shocking family secret
- Tete-a-tete: Time flies when you forget to change the clocks
- Tete-a-tete: Here in New Hampshire, we don't take voting 'for granite'
- Tete-a-tete: An Eagle takes flight in another family milestone
- Tete-a-tete: When choosing heirlooms, cross your Ts and dot your ... claims
- Tete-a-tete: Even the best-intentioned Christmas traditions can fail to take hold
- Tete-a-tete: How to enjoy a wedding, even if it's not your own
- Tete-a-tete: A tale of unintentional cat ownership
- Tete-a-tete: Admissions about the college admissions process
- Tete-a-tete: Avoiding car-tastrophe while purchasing a new vehicle
- Tete-a-tete: As American as apple pie: U.S. culture, through other eyes
- Tete-a-tete: The geek gene runs strong in our family
- Tete-a-tete: Grieving entertainment losses with a few simple steps
- Tete-a-tete: Parents, do not give your child the name equivalent of the April birthstone
- Tete-a-tete: Memento or clutter? Don't leave that decision to the historians
- Tete-a-tete: How Mom and Dad saved Christmas (and a hamster)
- Tete-a-tete: Having trouble keeping your New Year's resolutions? It could be "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" Syndrome
- Tete-a-tete: When Christmas starts before Thanksgiving (a reflection on temporal discombobulation)
- Tete-a-tete: Sizing up a new family pet, or the difference between a cat and a hamster
- Tete-a-tete: When your worst fear comes true
- Tete-a-tete: Family game night can leave you drawing a blank
- Tete-a-tete: When you have a really good reason to skip class
- Tete-a-tete: The downside to the world's most flattering bridesmaid dress
- Tete-a-tete: Say it with flowers - just don't say where you got them
- Tete-a-tete: Shockingly true tales of my Herculean, heroic great-grandpa
- Tete-a-tete: For goodness 'sakes - generational namesakes can confuse
- Tete-a-tete: Confused by the weather? Signs spring has almost sprung
- Tete-a-tete: Seeking the Holy Grail of a universal bridesmaid dress
- Tete-a-tete: Love poetry gone bad, or why I'm still not allowed to use matches
- Tete-a-tete: A traveler's guide to the Big Apple
- Tete-a-tete: Feats of strength aren't just for Festivus festivities
- Tete-a-tete: Change comes from within - sometimes, literally
- Tete-a-tete: Car games: from punch-buggy to punching cell phone buttons
- Tete-a-tete: I mustache you a question about costume practicality
- Tete-a-tete: Functional furniture is making my family dysfunctional
- Tete-a-tete: Jungle Speed board game can bring out the beast in you
- Tete-a-tete: To call it a ‘mooving’ ride would be inaccurate
- Tete-a-tete: When saying ‘sweetheart’ just won’t do
- Tete-a-tete: Eat your heart out, Festivus: Stymchastynchula is here
- Tete-a-tete: Hoping Korean music can explode in the U.S. with a K-pop
- Tete-a-tete: Holidays, especially with Grandma, are always colorful
- Tete-a-tete: Sometimes, it's the grilled cheese that makes the memories
- Tete-a-tete: Still recovering from Dad's forays into home education
Tete-a-tete: For goodness ‘sakes – generational namesakes can confuse
In many families, it is traditional to pass down names from one generation to the next. Among other things, this practice perpetuates the memory of those who have passed away by preserving their names for the future.
Unfortunately, this practice can also tax your memory, which leads to phone conversations like this between Grandma (Dad’s mom) and me.
Grandma: “So, John said to Joe – ”
Me: “Is John in this case Grandpa, your brother or my uncle?”
Grandma: “This would be your grandfather.”
Me: “OK. Is he talking to his brother Joe, your brother Joe or one of my cousins named Joe?”
Grandma: “His brother Joe.”
Me: “OK. Continue.”
Grandma: “So, John told Joe to get Paul – ”
Me: “Which Paul is this? Hold on, let me get a pen. Wait, is there going to be a Larry involved? Let me get a pencil instead.”
On Dad’s side of the family, counting everyone from in-laws to cousins, those four names belong to roughly two dozen individuals. According to Dad’s estimates, there are nine Johns, six Joes, five Pauls and four Larrys. Understanding who’s who in a family anecdote often involves interruptions for clarification and the occasional diagram.
Even after sitting down with Grandma and putting together a simple family tree of the last three generations, I still have trouble keeping everyone straight.
I am, however, one step ahead of Younger Sister, who only recently realized that Grandma’s youngest brother and Grandma’s son (our uncle) were both named Paul. Grandma’s stories about having adventures with Paul when she was a little girl now make a lot more sense.
Mom’s side of the family passes down names a bit differently. An individual’s first name is the handed-down family name, and their middle name is the name that their parents really wanted to give them and the name they actually go by.
Grandpa, my uncle and my cousin, for example, all have the first name Harold, but you’d never know unless you looked at their address labels — all of them go by their middle names. They all have the same middle name as well, but each of them goes by a different shortened version of it.
I have never been confused as to who’s who when listening to stories about Mom’s side of the family, but this method of passing down names does pose its own unique challenge, which Mom discovered when she attempted to help Grandpa get all of his paperwork in order.
Every official bit of paper has a different name on it. A credit card might be under his first and middle name, an insurance policy might be under his first initial and his middle name and a bank account might be under the shortened version of his middle name. It took months to get everything straightened out and filed under a single version of Grandpa’s name.
It seems as though Mom and Dad have both learned from the naming traditions of the previous generations, as my siblings and I were successfully named after relatives in ways that will (most likely) not cause confusion in the future.
Oldest Younger Brother and Youngest Brother both have first names that do not belong to any other relatives and middle names that are family names, so they’re all set. Younger Sister’s first and middle names are both family names, but they haven’t been used in that combination before, making her distinctive as well.
I like to think that the way in which my parents chose to name me was a particular coup. I was named after a specific relative, but instead of giving me the exact same name, they switched the order. Her middle name is therefore my first name, and her first name is my middle name. Sneaky, huh?
I fear, however, that Mom and Dad’s efforts to make our names stand out may be for naught, since, like most parents with multiple children, they have a hard time keeping us straight anyway. My favorite instance of name confusion was when Dad nearly tripped over the cat and, in frustration, yelled Younger Sister’s name instead of the cat’s.
In spite of the confusion they can cause, I do like the concept of family names. They give you a stronger sense of belonging and connect you to the previous generations. For the sake of future generations, however, I suggest you get creative with nicknames and name order to minimize confusion within the family, and to always file your paperwork under the same version of your name to minimize confusion for the rest of the world.
– Teresa Santoski
Originally published May 1, 2014.