Check out my Inscription Fiction (IF) page for what this is all about! Here’s the first of what I hope will be many forays into IF:
Kathy started it all with her wedding-invitation caliber cursive. That capital “F”! That capital “H”! The spacing of the “shly” in Ashlyn’s name! Ellen and I swooned via text about Kathy’s penmanship because we decided that hers was the hand that inscribed this hardback copy of Melisande by one of my favorites, E. Nesbit. (Commonly attributed to Einstein, the quotation “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales” guided me to this book selection. I’m not sure if Einstein’s assertion is accurate or not, but as it can’t logistically be disproven, I’ve taken it into serious consideration.) Now, Kathy, what’s with that final “n” in Ashlyn’s first of two first names? Did you almost forget it due to the fact that, when you say her name, the “n” in Ashlyn and the “N” in Nicole blend together because that glottal stop is just too clunky? Or is AshlynNicole one word?
In our very own fairy tale, Ellen and I decided that Jack and Kathy gave this book to their granddaughter, Ashlyn Nicole, who was named for Kathy’s father, Ashley, and her sister, Nicole, a febrile youth who never lived to see her 18th birthday. When naming her baby, Kathy and Jack’s daughter changed “Ashley” to “Ashlyn” because her husband had had a previous relationship with someone named Ashley (it ended spitefully), and his mother’s name was Lynn, so they hybridized the names to neutralize a variety of situational hazards. Kathy has always been bothered by her father’s name being blended with her daughter’s mother-in-law’s name (she and Lynn never had seen eye-to-eye on things), so that diminutive “n” was intentional, a nod to that knee-jerk passive aggression that people of a certain generation are seemingly inured to. Ashlyn was turning six that year, so Kathy and Jack sent her this book along with a framed photograph of them with her and her parents taken on her fifth birthday the summer before. (That year they’d been invited over on the actual day to watch Ashlyn blow out candles and open gifts. This year Ashlyn had wanted a party with her friends, and grandparents were only invited to pay a phone call, so Kathy included the photo as a subtle reminder of this. Well, she thought it was subtle. Her daughter did not.)
As for Kaidrea and Shea, they were Jack’s beloved pair of bearded dragons. “Kaidrea” is a coinage paying homage to Jack’s dearly departed Italian father, Andrea, but also respecting Ezra Pound’s entreaty to “make it new” because Jack’s other love (aside from reptiles), is modernist poetry. Shea is so called because of the eponymous stadium, home to Kathy’s beloved Mets and the location where she and Jack celebrated his fiftieth birthday, the occasion on which she presented him with the lizard as a companion for Kaidrea. It was a very special day not only because Jack had officially existed for half a century but also because the Mets bested the Phillies, which Kathy would have delighted in seeing. Unfortunately, she suffered such hot flashes that day (early menopause, though she wouldn’t admit it) that she drank so many red aluminum cans of cold Budweiser that she and Jack both lost count, and he had to put Shea the bearded dragon in Kathy’s pocketbook and carry Kathy over his shoulder to the car.
And whatever happened to Ashlyn? Well, she just turned 32 after finishing her nursing degree and lives in Atlanta with her husband and two cats. They are expecting their first child, a boy they plan to name Jack. You’ll be glad to know that Kathy is delighted.