LC Van Savage
Poppy and other old Friends
Years ago I wrote a column in this very paper. It was about favorite names I’d come across in my lifetime, some I thought gratingly awful, some riotously funny. One was a kid I knew named Three Searles, named Three because he was yes, his parents’ third child and they couldn’t think of another name at the time, so they named him a number.
Another was a girl I knew with the last name of Turvy and you can guess what first name her folks gave her. Another was a name I always thought sounded awful although the girl herself wasn’t; Melanie Fleegle.
But my favorite name of all was owned by a short, funny and lively school chum a year or two younger than I, whose name was Poppy Litinsky. Poppy was smart, very friendly and never seemed to think she had to apologize for her name, given to her because she was so red as a baby. Her mother, a woman who gardened, thought her baby girl resembled a red poppy, called her that and the name stuck. It was a wee bit odd because her real given name was Ruby, which is a red gem. I guess her folks thought the flower was redder than a ruby, so Poppy she became.
When I wrote the column about these odd names, for some reason I thought “Oh, if Poppy ever finds this piece about her, she’ll sue me,” so in the column, I renamed her Daffodil Litinsky, but never changed any of the other names. Maybe those folks will come after me someday, but Poppy I changed. Can’t explain why.
I last saw Poppy about 54 years ago, but never forgot her. Did I wonder about her? Not really. I only thought about her when her amusing name came bubbling into memory.
Last Sunday the house was very quiet, the weather beautiful, breezy cool and sunny, a Maine spring day. Our granddaughter was working on a painting on my basement easel, Mongo was out on his bike and my heart was filled with serenity. I began to work on an ongoing story and there was lots of peace in my world.
The doorbell rang. I cussed, got up, walked to the door, opened it and stared down at a short woman, maybe a little younger than I. She looked up at me, did not smile and said, “My name is not Daffodil.”
Without missing a beat I yelled “POPPY???” and I laughed. Indeed it was she, looking slightly ticked at me, but not dangerous. A tall, handsome white haired man was with her. Poppy Litinsky Madden and her husband Bob had come to call.
We spent a few hours together. Mongo returned from his exercise and the four of us chatted, the husbands gradually sinking into the glassy-eyed, rigor mortis boredom husbands are so good at when stuck with reminiscing wives who knew each other long ago.
Bob Madden is a retired police officer. Poppy is a retired crime reporter from a newspaper whose name I’ve forgotten. She has recently achieved some fame by winning her case for being allowed to hang her clothes to dry on a line outside her beautiful home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Later I googled her and indeed it’s true. Her angered neighbors had been protesting the sight of Poppy’s “purple panties” on the line, destroying their view of a beautiful canal. Poppy won her case and apparently her neighbors are still treated to the sight of Poppy Litinsky Madden’s purple drawers soaking up the Florida sun.
Bob told us how he’d won a medal for his heroism in WW II, saving crew members from an exploded, burning plane, the medal given to him fifty years after the fact. A good man. A hero.
Old friends with flowers for names. It was a great Sunday.
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