A couple of weeks ago, I attended a family event at a conservation club, the grounds of which had a large building, a shooting range, and a pond for dog races. Having attended several United Kennel Club (UKC) Coonhound events growing up, I recognized the use for the pond right away—at one end of the pond was a tree and at the other, a coop rigged to release multiple dogs at the same time. I watched so many dog races at ponds similar to these, looking at it evoked memories of weekends spent at the coon club watching water races or running around with other kids burying a treasure we had gathered inside an old coffee can. (If you’re curious what a coonhound water race looks like, check out this video.)
My husband and I were both born and raised in the United States but experienced very different childhoods. He also had noticed the pond—oblong, man-made, and obviously serving some purpose—but hadn’t quite figured out its use. As my dad and husband stood around outside, Hubby finally asked him if he knew what the pond was for.
The noise never lulled in my childhood home—the TV blared even if no one was watching it, and my father, three siblings, and I never seemed to speak in muted voices—our conversations spewed forth full volume. So when I became old enough to receive telephone calls myself, whoever answered the phone would set the receiver down and bellow my name, each syllable lasting a beat longer than it needed to, “Lonnie.”
If it was a new caller on the other end, I knew the first words they’d say when I picked up the receiver. Every friend who met my family used a derogatory tone to inform me of what they perceived as a grave offense, “He just called you ‘Lonnie.’ That’s a boy’s name. Why did he call you by a boy’s name?”
With all these reminders, even as an elementary student, I was never embarrassed. In fact, I couldn’t understand why they found it such a great misdeed. My friends saw only a little girl whose family addressed her with a boy’s name. But in my own head, the name conjured an image of a handsome man who was deeply loved by his family.
My husband tells me stories of his family history that are filled with such adventure that the pictures and emotions they conjure up in me linger for hours. In 2007, his grandparents sent us a letter that recounted the details of their expulsion from China in their own words. They spoke of gold strips carried in their shoes, books buried for for their possible return, and a communist officer carefully stepping over their vomit on the deck of the ship. Their descriptions piqued my interest in a time and place I couldn’t quite imagine. Their experiences were so far removed from the world I know.