Our son, Mattias, is three and a half, which he will gladly – and rather assertively – tell you, whether asked or not. To say he is gregarious would be underplaying his outgoing nature. He knows no strangers, which is a regular challenge for his parents, but it also means he makes friends on the spot.
He’s not so good with names, though.
It’s not that he has a poor memory for names. On the contrary, once he has a name for you, he’ll never forget it.
You just have to hope the first name he comes up with is right, or so help you, you’re stuck with a pseudonym for life.
He was playing at the indoor play are at the mall during a storm recently when he ran up and introduced himself to a four-year-old red-headed young man who was sure he was Spiderman. You could tell by the way he clung to the playground walls, jumped from toy to toy, and generally ran in circles like a spaz, just as Spiderman would. When not living beneath the cloak of his mysterious alter-ego, the boy was named Gabriel. Mattias has about a one-second window within which he can actually absorb a response to his questions, at which point he moves on to other things. It’s like living constantly in the middle of the rapid-fire round of a quiz show. By the time he asked the boy his name, he was already halfway turned in the opposite direction, headed toward the giant bear toy.
Though the young man said his name was Gabriel, all Mattias heard was “Egg Roll.” So from now on, his new friend’s name is Egg Roll.
He called him Egg Roll for the next thirty minutes, as Egg Roll’s parents doubled over in laughter, and we flushed with embarrassment. “Hey, Egg Roll, watch me jump!” He called from the slide. “Egg Roll, let’s race,” and so on.
This is not the only time this has happened.
Just recently on a trip to the Playland at a local McDonalds, he met up with another young boy who he determined would be his friend for the interim. Again, he asked the boy his name, and again, he didn’t really wait for an answer before climbing through the colored tubes toward the top.
The poor kid, who was shy of three and was not particularly swift of speech, tried to muster a “Frankie,” but all our son heard was “Shrinky.”
“This is my friend, Shrinky. We’re playing,” he said, with no apparent awareness of the unlikelihood of his proclamation. No matter how many times we corrected him, the die had been cast. The kid forever would be known in Mattias’ world as Shrinky.
We have two friends who we meet up with from time to time. They are an eclectic couple, into drum circles, organic gardening and the like. They are pretty easy going, which is good, because some might be put off by Mattias’ tendency to butcher names.
I must admit that we don’t call them by their proper names either. Instead, we know them as “Barb and Kuz” (pronounced Kooz). They are such a tightly-knit unit that I’d be hard-pressed to say one name without the other. You say “Barb, and the tongue leaps forth with an irrepressible “and Kuz.” You just can’t help it. It flows.
Leave it to Mattias to creatively mutilate even this. no matter how often we correct him, the couple is known to him as “Barn and Goose.” This seems to make perfect sense to him, as he never has paused or questioned this. The funny thing is we’ve gotten so used to hearing it that we have started calling them Barn and Goose too, and in fact, they even call themselves Barn and Goose from time to time.
Oh, if the world’s lexicon could only accommodate Mattias’ unique approach to language, what creative names we’d have. For now, Shrinky, Egg Roll, Barn and Goose are the few within the hallowed halls of the renamed, but keep your ears open. I’m sure there will be plenty more to come.