Farewell to Beauty

Posted: June 21st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Misc Neuroses, Miss Kate | 1 Comment »

I used to have a housemate whose name was Beth. As an adult, prior to going off to work at some hippie commune/primal screaming retreat on the Monterey coast, she decided to start calling herself Joey.

Somehow one of the nights I was hosting Bad Movie Monday this came up. Mind you, the now defunct BMM posse was comprised of some of my most ruthless and hilarious friends. When Rick learned of this Beth/Joey thing it was like throwing his sarcasm an immense piece of bloody chum. I think every time he called me thereafter–in the time that I was still living with that cah-raaazy woman–he’d say, “Hi. Is Beth–I mean Joey–there?”

Ah, the fun we had mocking her.

The closest I ever got to some kind of name change was around the issue of my non-existent middle name. I blame laziness on my parents’ part for why my three sisters and I feel bereft every time we fill out a form requiring a middle initial or name. Or, I could say something like what my friend Scot who only has one ‘t’ in his name says: My parents couldn’t afford to give us middle names. In his case it’s a second ‘t.’

Anyway, my father once made up some line about how he and my mother wanted to let us pick our own middle names. Riiiiight. To sweeten the deal he said when we came up with middle names we wanted we could go down to Town Hall and make it legal–have it be like a little field trip. As a lawyer I think my father over-valued the thrill factor of a trip to Town Hall, especially for an eight-year-old.

Determined to be like all the other kids I went to my room to ruminate on my new name.

And let it be known that for a great stretch of my life I was hellbent on finding a way to Wasp-ify or feminize my last name, Bruno. I even went through a short stage of spelling it Bruneau on my homework until some teacher put an end to that. I was happy with the name Kristen. But I saw this middle name thing as an opening–an opportunity to inject more femininity into my name as a whole.

After some musing I came down and told my Dad I’d decided on a name. Told him to grab the car keys, we were heading to Town Hall. Of course, he asked me what I’d decided on, and I announced with great pride: “Cherry.”

That’s right. Kristen Cherry Bruno. I thought it was brilliant.

At any rate, my father did the ole look at his watch and say, “Oh no! Town Hall just closed.” It was probably something like 2:20PM. Undeterred I pointed out that there was always tomorrow. At which point he likely fabricated some kind of week-long government holiday.

Whatever his stall tactics were–and I’m sure they teach you some great ones in law school–they worked. Thank God. To this day I am middle name-less.

Actually, now that I think of it, that’s not exactly true. In some cruel twist of fate I decided to take Bruno as my middle name when I got married and took McClusky as my last. (McClusky not exactly being the Smith or Jones I’d always longed for, but what can you do when you’re in love?) So, ironically, the frilly and pretty middle name I eventually got was, uh, Bruno. Ah well.

So a couple weeks ago when I took Kate to preschool she marched me over to meet her classroom’s resident caterpillar, Larry. But by week’s end on the notes outlining what the kids did during the day I learned that the children had named the caterpillar Beauty.

I never found out what brought about the need for a name change. Did Larry just come to a place in his life where he wanted to reinvent himself a la Beth/Joey? Do caterpillars have penises? If so, did what the teachers suspected was Larry’s turn out to be something else altogether? Had there been a terrible gender mix-up when Larry was originally named?

Maybe Larry was just looking for something a bit softer and more feminine in a name. I feel you, brother.

Soon after Larry became Beauty I was picking Kate up from school and one of the teachers scurried out of the nap room to talk to me. It was Monica, a kind of wacky older Chinese woman who has been working at the school for a few hundred years.

“Big day today! Big day!” she yelped.

I’d never seen her so keyed up.

“Today the caterpillar made a cocoon! While we watch! It take one hour. One hour! It so incredible! We watch! The children watch! In many many years of teaching this the most special day for me!”

When we were walking to the car I asked Kate about it. But I think she changed the subject to something like, “Emily picked her nose today.” I could appreciate that. With someone else so hopped up on something it can be hard to find room for your own excitement.

Needless to say there was a lot of anticipation awaiting
Larry/Beauty’s debut as a butterfly. They moved the cocoon into a small
netted enclosure so they could contain it once it was born. (Is born an appropriate word to use here? I’ll have to ask Kate.)

The daily activity notes and Kate kept us updated. Mark would ask how school was and Kate would say something about “Beauty and chrysalis,” causing Mark to ask, “Who is Beauty and what happened to Larry?” And me to ask, “What’s chrysalis?”

Along the way Kate learned a caterpillar-to-butterfly song complete with little hand gestures, and how to say ‘metamorphosis.’ Despite the call I put into MIT as a result, they still seem to think we should hold off a bit until she at least takes the SATs.

On Tuesday’s preschool pick-up, before I had a chance to read about the days happenings, Lilia, Kate’s most favorite and adored teacher, walked out of the nap room to meet me. She closed the door behind her and leaned her back against it with a dreamy look in her eyes.

“Oh Kristen. When I saw you I just had to come out and tell you. Beauty turned into a butterfly last night, and today we had such an incredible ceremony at the meadow. I mean, it really really was magical.”

During this Kate sticks her head into the carseat carrier and screams, “Hello, little Paigey!!!” at volume 11, causing Paige to shriek and start bawling. Then Kate comforts her by leaning all her weight into her for a hug. I try to pull them apart while still looking up to listen to Lilia.

“In my 14 years of teaching, today was no doubt–it was–it was really the best day. Ever! And Thalia took her harp and we had the most magical ceremony in the meadow, and the children danced and sang. Then we set Beauty free. It was just beautiful.”

I thought of my most magical work days and none of them sounded even close to this. Was I ever misty-eyed with joy over delivering that perfect e-commerce platform to a client? Uh, no. Then again, the thought of changing diapers all day–other people’s kids diapers, that is–pales in comparison to developing Excel pivot tables, in my mind at least.

But truly, I was happy they had a good day. It’s such a great little school and Kate really loves it there. And it’s nice that all her teachers are having peak experiences.

On our walk to the car I asked Kate what her favorite part of the day was. She looked up at me and said, “The hawp! The hawp!” Leading me to realize that no matter how far I raise my children from Rhode Island the accent may still find its way to them.

So, aside from the leaf-chomping, cocoon-makin’, chrysalis and metamorphosis, Kate has also came to understand that you sometimes have to set the ones you love free–while a hippie preschool teacher serenades you on harp.

Fly away, little Larry/Beauty! We have learned much from you, and hope you are happy in your new home in the meadow.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Farewell to Beauty”

  1. 1 Julie Polito said at 7:39 pm on June 24th, 2008:

    I was just thinking about Beth/Joey the other day!!!

    And I always secretly refer to you as Kristen Cherry Bruno.

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