What’s in a Name

IMG_1578Our family’s name leave the Chinese scratching their heads, a fact which has become more apparent since the boys started school, not that it has slowed them down any. Chase and Porter figure they’ve already acquired a couple of admiring girls who talk to them and blush, chasing down any ratty classmate with the temerity to accuse them of a crush, all signs of young love, grounded in human nature rather than language. Yesterday Porter got off the bus dragging his shoulders two or three inches from the ground. “Tell me about your day, Porter.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you sure?”

“It was the worst day ever.”

Apparently the other children called him “Harry Porter,” by no means the first Chinese to do so, but it stung coming from his classmates whose limited English left him fearing they would not make the distinction between “Harry” and “hairy.” Now, my maiden name is Messer, so I could have described a few incidents that ripped the flesh from my hide as a child, but progeny seem singularly unimpressed with stories involving uphill both ways in the snow, particularly since they can see my feet are dry now. “Porter, do you realize you’re a white boy with glasses, who, in fact owns a wand?” He thought it through and perked up considerably. It’s all about owning it.

Our Chinese tutor calls Abby “Bunny” because she holds her baby bunny through every lesson, not to mention late into the night, cooing over each twitch of its silky pink ears. There’s a famous park just outside our compound where yesterday she took it for an outing, and was embarrassed to be repeatedly photographed by Chinese college students recording the exhibits, i.e. flora, statuary, and the blue-eyed blonde taking her bunny for a hop. Abby is still waiting for her school acceptance, and without the boys there’s been a tremendous dearth of screaming and torture. “MOM WILL YOU MAKE HIM/HER STOP!!!” We didn’t realize how much she missed it until she glommed onto Bunny like a drowning man clutching at a raft. The boys tease her of course. Chase even more than Porter who sometimes sneaks chances to play with it himself.

Bunny was becoming more and more adventurous, testing the limits, jumping higher and higher, its little paws thumping around the floor from the glass doors to the warm spot over the boiler, then off in search of more sun. Last night during the wee hours it jumped and climbed, clever and agile, escaping from its pen to scamper in the dark, unfettered by all the annoying humans set on limiting the roaming. This morning the alarm clock went off to send Chase and Harry Porter off to school, and there over the banister at the bottom of a twelve-foot drop crouched a scrap of white fur, so very still and quiet. A pink ear twitched, so we knew it was alive. A whey-faced Abby was ready in minutes and we headed for the nearest animal hospital. Today when the boys got off the bus, I asked, “How was your day?”

“How’s Bunny?”

“Is Bunny . . .?” Their faces anxious, worried for Abby, though they’d rather have their feet scraped than tell her.

Bunny is still with us, injured and slow to hop, but hopefully embarking on a long life. I’ve been keeping an eye on it and thinking about the word “freedom,” a glorious and weighty word which has been thrown around with such reckless intensity that the fine detail has cracked and crumbled off, narrowing the meaning down to “freedom from consequences,” a definition that doesn’t allow us to understand our own Constitution. Today Bunny knows Freedom by its first name, she owns the consequences with the sharp clarity of fractured bones. Maybe Bunnies really are lucky.

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