Dienstag, 14. Juli 2015


As a kid, many of my schoolmates knew their ancestry to a point. That they were 1/8 or 1/16 or 1/20 this European or African people or something.
Here, I'm foreign. People think that I'm Dutch or Belgian or similar until I say that I'm American. But that's that. 100% American. There's no need to go into the schoolyard 1/2 Portuguese, 1/2 UK mutt, except with two cleaners in our building. One is a super sweet cleaning woman who does a couple of flats in our building, Lydia. Like many Portuguese immigrants, gets by in Switzerland on her french knowledge. When we first met and were trying to communicate, she said that she didn't speak German but that she understood it and I said that my French was the same. She asked "Ne tu parle portugais?" and I said no "Je suis Américainne." But she'd thought that I might be portuguese.
Lydia's husband, Norberto, once asked if I had portuguese family as well and I told him my grandparent's last names. "I was nearly named Joaquim! It's a first name!" I agreed that it was and he told me the story of how he came to be called Norberto.
The day that Norberto was born, his father was over the moon to have a son. He celebrated with some friends, nearly forgetting that it was his responsibility to get the baby registered at the town hall. He had to return the next day, and by then, another baby Joaquim had been born and registered promptly. "But a Norberto just died, you could have that name." Apparently this was a teensy tiny town and duplicate names were unfavorable, so Norberto's papa registered his new son and returned home and worked himself up into a froth. He told his wife, "Our son will be called Norberto and that's the end of it! It's my choice and I've already registered him!"
So, Norberto was no longer Joaquim, but apparently held on to that story proudly. His two sons are called Ivo and Remo, the same as my husband and brother-in-law. Living in the big city means that his sons' names needn't be unique. So he named his boys after two boys whom he'd watched grow up and thought to be intelligent, kind, respectful young men. And no happy celebration of their birth prevented him from giving them those names.

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