we do what we must . . .

August 6, 2011

a long time ago,
a mason from ireland left
and came to the united states.
he briefly settled in brooklyn, married
a woman who’s name has been lost,
and upon having a son, john,
finally settled in corktown,
detroit’s oldest neighborhood.

this man was named stephen martin,
my great great great grandfather.

upon my birth,
my mother decided to give me his name,
tying me forever to a man without whom
i would never have made it here.

but in what can only be called the metaphor of my existence,
she misspelled it.
and so my ancestor’s name,
already anglicized from the irish,
had now been americanized
in a city once owned by the french.

i’ve often heard that there’s a lot of power in a name.
and this misspelling, i now feel, was a kind of curse.
nothing i seem to do ever follows a proper path;
everything must have an accidental twist,
one based on false certainty.

what this has meant for me is that,
while my life won’t ever be what one’s should,
it has been one that i wouldn’t change anything about.
not one thing.

would i trade finding the “knock” my family left behind in county kerry,
or petting a panda bear while he at an apple in chengdu,
or walking the early morning streets of paris at christmastime,
or burning in the himalayan sunshine outside the potala palace,
or a shockingly thorough olive oil massage from a burly greek woman on the coast of santorini for
a mortgage?
a wedding ring?
financial security?

i can’t say as i would.

but i have often wondered
if marching to the beat of my own disco
means i won’t get the chance to pass along a name,
misspelled or otherwise, if,
in twenty years time,
i’d regret not
being more

sometimes i wonder if passing on a name is important to me,
or important enough to me.
i’m not sure, but
i wonder.

in what can only be considered the craziest of signs,
it turns out that my name will live on,
just not in the usual form.
(bien sur)

and so here we meet little steven ambrose (jr)
a baby alpaca, born on august 5th, 2011.
he’s sure to spend many a happy day with sally of rivendale farms,
who you may recognize from the comments.

that email was a solar flare during a starless moment for me.
you’re timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.
thanks sally.

of course,
i’m allergic to alpacas.

this is my life.

11 Responses to “we do what we must . . .”

  1. Juliet in Grand Rapids Says:


    I guess I’m not surprised.

  2. CarolP Says:

    Congratulations Steven! He’s as cute as you are!

  3. Sally at Rivendale Farms Says:

    These were taken right after he was born, he’s getting cuter every day. (And better news, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate even more – he is not destined to be neutered. Just thought you should know and be reassured.) I personally think he’s as cute as his namesake, and good to know the name lives on.

  4. Jan at Cat Crap Hill Says:

    And as a compliment to his namesake, he’s as unique to Alpaca-dom as Steven Ambrose is to the knitting community. He’s a tuxedo grey with a brown saddle. How unusual is that? Very! Hopefully, I will go give him kisses soon, as his barn is just a couple of miles from mine. Know that he will be loved, adored and spoiled at Rivendale Farms and he will breed many comely alpaca dams and your namesake will have magnificent generations.

    Cheers to you!

  5. Kimberly Says:

    How stinkin’ cute is this?! Love it!

  6. meg Says:

    So, perhaps I was relinking you to your ggg grandfather when I misspelled your name? Family lines, names, and biology are often on my mind these days, for reasons I will not go into here.

    But know that even if biologically you contribute little to the advancement of humankind (I am in the same boat), your presence here makes a difference to the people around you.

    And if Steven Ambrose Jr grows up to be an ornery bastard, well, you can take pride in that too.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    This post made me laugh. Thanks and congratulations!

  8. KevinL Says:

    August 5th. It’s a good day to have a birthday. 😉

  9. Anonymous, too Says:

    He is so handsome, I’d think he were your biological son if not for the number of hooves ;-)!

    As for the allergy — talk to your doctor. What’s the cost of some Claritin or an asthma inhaler if you get to hug and properly welcome your namesake to your extended family? Or get to spin &/or knit some of his wool into something extra special for you or young Master Ambrose’s “grandparents”????

    Since then, judicious use of Claritin and open windows, with Benadryl and an asthma inhaler as backup, have allowed me to

  10. Anonymous, too Says:

    Eeep! Never mind that last bit — part of a longer story I decided not to tell here, but didn’t completely delte!

  11. […] may recall that there’s an alpaca in colorado named after me. well now there’s a baby chick in oregon named in my honor. meet ambrosia: the fiber world is […]

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