In A Name – Thursday April 12th

I could never tell if Tom was serious when we would have baby-name brainstorming sessions.  For a couple of weeks, he fixated on naming the baby the same name of past and present pets.  ”Not after them, just using the same name.”  I had to treat these suggestions seriously just in case.  ”I think Casey would be a good name for a baby”.  Casey is the name of the labrador I had growing up.  She was a really special dog, and certainly if I were going to be named after a dog, Casey would be the dog I’d want to be named after.

Still, it didn’t strike that naming chord you wait for as a parent.

“You know what is a really cute name?” Tom asked later.  ”Ramona.  I love that name!”

Ramona is the name of our current dog, a sweet orange mutt we adopted from Anti-Cruelty.  She is named after Ramona Quimby, a character from a series of children’s books I loved.  I didn’t know if Tom was inspired to suggest our dog’s name, or if he also wanted to name our daughter after the incorrigible Ramona Quimby.

I had to gently threaten that he might soon be kicked off the baby-naming committee.  I think the threat came at just the right time, because the next name he suggested was Hazel.

I put my hands on my belly and said “Hazel. That’s it.  That’s her name.”  We picked two others to have in our back pocket, because I was afraid she’d come out looking nothing like a Hazel and we’d be stuck naming her Ramona because we couldn’t think of anything else.

Hazel was Hazel and is more Hazel every day. Except when I’m really tired.  Then Hazel, while still retaining all of her Hazelness, gets called Ramona.  And Ramona, standing at the window and barking at the Fed Ex guy, gets called Hazel.


At Ron of Japan – Monday April 2nd

I was talking to my co-workers the other day about Ron of Japan.  One of them pointed out that I talk about Ron of Japan almost every day.  I realized that I also think about Ron of Japan almost every day.  When Tom and I have been able to have post-Hazel nights out, most of them have been spent at Ron of Japan.

This may be a manifestation of a deep psychological problem.

Ron of Japan is a Japanese Tappenyaki Style restaurant where you sit at a communal table with other diners. The menu features seafood, steak or chicken cooked right before your eyes with plenty of oil and magic sauce: a sauce with healing properties made primarily from egg yolks.  This sauce is so powerful it transcends the dread of having to sit with strangers- or worse- people you vaguely knew from high school. It also gives you the dizzying sensation of having your blood pressure and cholesterol raised immediately to dangerous levels.  Only a super mai-tai can correct this.  Or make you not care, anyway.

My parents try politely to hide their revulsion at our restaurant-of-choice.  They encourage us to have a night here and there on our own (even though most of the time we’re not with Hazel, we talk about Hazel or look at pictures of Hazel).  We try to branch out, we want to branch out.  But inevitably we find ourselves seated in red vinyl chairs, nervously trying to avoid eye contact with the other people who, for reasons unknown, also love Ron of Japan.

Maybe my affection for Ron of Japan (is “Ron” a common Japanese name or does it mean something in Japanese?) has something to do with a temporary return to the bubble we lived in when we lost our first child.  We were devastated, but we still felt very close to him…he wasn’t all the way gone yet.

After Tommy Jr died Tom was very indulgent, and since we lived down the street from the Streeterville Ron of Japan we ended up there too many Sunday evenings to count.  We didn’t want to be around people we knew, because they were too sympathetic or they didn’t know what to say.  We didn’t want to be around people we didn’t know, because they might ask innocent questions that rubbed our raw hearts.  So we went to a restaurant where the waiters never try and banter with you, and where we could stare into each other’s eyes and talk quietly and quickly to avoid conversation with our table mates.  No one knew us or what we’d been through.

There’s something weirdly intimate about staring at your spouse and talking to them so intently that the other bafoons at your table wouldn’t dare to interrupt.  (Except for “Craig” who recently interrupted our heated argument about politics to boast about his college football record.  He kept swigging gin and tonics while his 15 year old son hid his face in his hands.  And there were the hilarious newlyweds who were into trying new things, so they ordered sushi.  The whole table laughed with them as they gagged their way through spicy tuna rolls.)  We could just eat our lobster and steak and suck down super mai tais until the waiter was stuffing the grease scrapings into a gag-inducing little hole in the tables.

I had the blues after Hazel was born between bouts of giddy, insane happiness.  For a while, after she went to sleep I would cry in Tom’s arms.  I was so happy, but I was reminded of how much we had to lose to get here, and I wondered if my joy would ever be completely free of sadness.

It took a long time for me to realize there were a few places, a few people, a few songs, a few driving routes that would transport me back to a time in my life that was simpler.  I don’t want to relive that time, because Hazel isn’t there.  But a visit for a couple of hours when she sleeps is nice once in a while.  And if they serve lobster smothered in egg sauce, it’s twice as nice.

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