‘”Parasot,” she squeaked.’
I know you’re not supposed to have favorites among your children. I remember asking my mother who was her favorite and she would respond diplomatically, “You are all my favorites.”
Well, that question is easy for me to answer; I only have the one Child. But then there is the question of favorite nieces and/or nephews. I won’t reveal my favorites, having inherited my mother’s diplomatic nature. But, when they were all little, The Dude expressed an especial fondness for his niece Natalie, my Favorite Sister Laura’s daughter. (I can say “Favorite Sister” because she is my only sister; but I confess she would probably be my favorite if I had seven sisters.)
Natalie had a doll whose name was “Meat.” I kid you not — Meat. We aunts and uncles used to get a real charge out of asking, “What’s your dolly’s name, Natalie?” and hearing her pipe up in her adorable baby-duck voice, “Meat!”
The Child, on the other hand, was more of a stuffed-animal person. She owned a whole array of them: lions and bunnies and squirrels and kitties and even a penguin. Her naming scheme was to call them what they, well, were. The lion was “Lion,” the bunny was “Bunny,” and so on and so forth.
When we would go on a trip, which was quite often in those days, she would pick an animal to “go with,” as they say in the Midwest. When we were packing for a road trip, say, she would announce, “Duckie got to go last time, so now it’s Penguin’s turn.”
But back to the story of the title. No one knows why little Natalie called her dolly “Meat,” but eventually I was able to discover the origin of another unusual dolly name, “Parasot.”
When I was really little my Mom and I lived on my grandparents’ farm. My Dad was in the Air Force and was stationed overseas, in Korea, so Mom thought it would be best to stay with her parents for “the duration.” (I’ve written about this, in a story called “Kissing Daddy Goodnight,” if you’d like more about what can happen during a ‘duration.’)
I was so young then — this period lasted from babyhood till about two years old — that I can’t remember it. But I’ve been told I was quite demanding. So much so that my Grampa Peterson called me “Imperious Alice.”
Well, I was the first — and only — grandchild until my Oldest Younger Brother Scott was born. So there’s that.
Anyway. I was showered with affection — and toys. After all, I was the only game in town, grandchild-wise. I had one doll, though, that I liked the best. I named her “Parasot.” The adults all thought this was pretty interesting. “Parasot?” What kind of name is “Parasot?” My mother would say that she thought I just liked the way “Parasot” sounded when I said it.
Well, time went by. My father came home and met my little brother. My grandparents left their farm and moved to town. I grew up and moved to New York City. My grandfather died, and, eventually, so did my grandmother.
I was at Gramma’s funeral, standing in the family receiving line shaking hands and accepting kind words and condolences when a very old lady approached.
“I am so sorry for your loss,” she said. “I remember you from when you were very little and lived on the farm.”
“Thank you so much,” I said.
“Yes, I remember you,” she continued. “I was one of your grandmother’s neighbors. I used to come over for coffee, and you’d sit on my lap. I’m Mrs. Parasot.”
Amagansett, New York. January 2021