Nov 26, 2009 | Sisters, OR
Nov 26, 2009

My plans for a solitary Thanksgiving were happily thwarted by Paul, one of the contractors who built Caldera, who invited me to his brother's family meal this evening. The matriarch of the group, a slightly deaf and abundantly cheerful white-haired woman named Esther, greeted me with a big bear hug when I entered the kitchen, making me feel very welcome. She told me the story of her mother, whose primary goal in life was to live 100 years, a goal she reiterated constantly to anyone she met. On her mother's 100th birthday there was a huge celebration, filled with distant cousins and far-flung relatives in from out of town. That night, on her 100th birthday, her mother went to bed, and died in her sleep.

Her mother, born "Madge Jones", never liked her name. So early in her life she prepended "Tal" to "Madge" and became Talmadge. Soon she got married, and became Talmadge Jones Kinersly. Over the next sixty years, she kept adding names whenever she met someone who had a name she liked (at the rate of approximately one new name every ten years). By the time she died at 100, her official name had eleven components — Talmadge Marcella Lucile Christine Virginia Viletta Vina Vanessa Jacquelyn Jones Kinersly. To remember them in the proper order, she carried an index card, penned in her own hand, listing her sequence of names. At social gatherings, this card was her opening line. Apparently it still is.