The Ottawalla Peninsula Naming Committee
The peninsula women sit on rockers at the party. Sally Mayfield is turning seventy-two. She’s rented the clubhouse, she’s invited Tapper & Kip to the party. Sally has been here the longest, seen the largest storms, raises the highest voice in protest to those that move in, to those that mean to hurt, to those that forget the histories, to those that hoist guns in the direction of ducks, to those that staple shingles to houses on weekends. She is a loud woman, destined to be a grandmother with or without the consent of the rest. These women have survived their spouses, children, the sons of the seashore have moved on, moved inland, left the water for higher ground. And last week, suddenly, an announcement of twin boys. The community wants to raise them well, to ignore the histories, to lift them up.
The circle of septuagenarians pierce their stitches and pull their needles through. Blankets in various states of creation drape over each set of legs. Velma is nearly finished a king sized quilt which slinks out of a large canvas bag. Eensie, a woman once called Eleanor far before any of these women knew her, is starting the second in a new pair of baby boots. With her frame and her delicate hands the first boot looks like it’ll fit her.
“They’re for the twins,” Eensie mouths under her breath to Clarise, a woman best described as an antelope, tall graceful neck, earrings like antlers branching from her lobes. Clarice nods and darts a small needle through a tambourine shaped canvas. She needlepoints signs with words on them (“Extraordinary ladies hardly got anywhere being ordinary”) that hang in kitchens around town. They conduct energy through the stitching of their needles through yarn, they spin tales of the twins, of the future kings of the small peninsula.
“But who needs kings? Who even said anything about kings?” says Sally. “The boys will be whatever we raise them to be.”
“What do you think the mothers should call them?” asks Lydia. Kip & Tapper, the expecting mothers look at one another, wondering why they’re not being asked directly.
“Well we should have a naming committee,” responds Sally.
“Indeed,” chimes Rose Abernackle, “I used to love a good naming committee.”
“I’m unfamiliar with -” Kip is abruptly cut off from the grandmothers.
“Before your time dear,” says Lydia.
“Oh we should tell them,” says Velma.
“Of course they should participate,” says Rose.
“Of course the choice is ultimately theirs,” says Sally with a knowing smirk.
“But the committee, should run its course,” says Rose.
“Have to let the committee reach a conclusion,” says Velma.
“Really must have a good show of hands at a community meeting,” says Lydia.
“Indeed,” says Sally.
The young mothers look at one another as if they’re chewing each remaining bit of nail and cuticle left. The clipboard is passed. A piece of paper is written on by each woman, torn off the board, folded, placed in an old ball cap that follows the board. There is little pause as each woman scribbles. They put their names in the cap. Sally plucks the folded pieces of paper.
“Are you going to read them aloud?” asks Kip.
“We tally them,” answers Sally. “The names with the most votes are announced.”
“This was very nice,” says Kip. “We really do enjoy the... support.”
“Richard Richard,” interrupts Tapper. “They’ll both be called Richard Richard.” The old women cannot hide their shock. Sally winces, pretends not to notice, continues the tally on the far side of the room. Tapper announces louder, “Couple of little Rich Dicks, our little Richie Riches.” “Those can’t be the names,” whispers Eensie to Clarice who tucks her chin all the way into her neck in disbelief.
“Those will be the names,” shouts Kip, who is very pregnant in this moment with these two boys in her belly. “We’re going to give them the world. They’re going to turn this place into a storage facility. And they already have four grandmothers, you old bats!” She waddles past the sewing circle and out of the room. Tapper gathers their bags and quietly leaves in chase.
One by one a needle and yarn is picked back up and the quiet clicking consumes the room.
“My, what a show,” says Eensie.
“I remember those days,” says Rose.
“My Annabelle, I was as big as a house,” says Velma.
“Youth is wasted,” says Clarice.
“On the youth!” shouts the circle, erupting in a cackle.
“Storage units.” laughs Lydia. “All houses become storage units. That's parenthood.”
Sally, stares over the grid of unfolded papers on the foldout table in her makeshift office in the wide-open clubhouse room. She writes the final tally.
“Eight Baracks,” Sally proudly announces. “And seven Olivers.” She looks at the women, all pleased as punch with their lap fulls of soft material. “Which of our little boys will come first?”