Monday, March 8, 2010

Jenny Gardiner's "Winging It"

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her writing has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post, and NPR’s Day to Day, and she has a column of humorous slice-of-life essays that runs in the Charlottesville, VA Daily Progress. Gardiner lives in central Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, and one gregarious parrot.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me, and reported the following:
Ack--I hate the page 99 test, so I'm making it the page 59 test--I think this more accurately reflects the humor in the book. It was the 1st page of a chapter, so I gave you the next page too:
Once Graycie became a reality in our lives, we had to figure out a proper moniker for her. The problem was, Scott and I were a bit name-weary by then. We’d just been through the whole name game during my pregnancy and had struggled mightily to reach a consensus.

“We should call him Tucker,” I announced one day while we were sifting through baby name books once we knew we were expecting a boy.

Scott arched his eyebrow at me and shook his head no. “Yeah, I can hear the taunting on the playground already. Tucker the—”

“Fine. How about something Gaelic? I love Irish names. Like Seamus.” I know. It’s sort of odd to slap an ethnic name like that on a kid who bears little connection to the motherland. Although in my defense, I have a smattering of Irish branches in my family tree.

Scott didn’t even deign to respond but instead just rolled his eyes.

“Matthew?” I suggested. “You can’t go wrong with that name. It’s one of the most popular names of the century!”

“Most popular means most common,” Scott said, shaking his head again. “Besides, Matt? That’s a sound, not a name.”

After going through four books, disputing the finer details of the Latin derivations of the names, and dissecting each one ad nauseam, we narrowed it down to Kyle, Tyler, or Ryan. It just so happens that in 1989, those names weren’t particularly popular, although shortly thereafter they became about as common as, well, Matthew.

So there we were, named out, and faced with the task of figuring out what to call our parrot. And the challenge was much more daunting than naming our previous pets, since we were told the creature could live for up to ninety years. (That’s right. Ninety years.) We didn’t want to give her a lame name and have her stuck with it for nearly a century.

Obviously Polly was out of the question. It was far too cheesy. Chaco was out, too, because the only Chaco we knew personally at the time was a frightening sociopath, and I didn’t want to taint our parrot with any of that bad bird mojo. Besides, Chaco seemed a cliché name, as apparently every parrot in the history of pirating was named that.

It took about a month after Graycie’s arrival for her name to finally come to us. As with everything else Graycie-related, this development involved pain. Traditionally, house-kept parrots’ wings are clipped to keep
Watch a video of Gardiner discussing Winging It and another of Graycie performing, and learn more about the book and author at Jenny Gardiner's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue