40 in four(ty): pals and nicknames and symbols

Well, damn. 40 in forty has quickly turned into 40 in four. Good thing I'm excited about it. 

I really don't have much in the way of wisdom left to share. But I have, as my birthday and party approach, been thinking about friendships and the many incredible people I'm lucky enough to call dear pals. About what it means to know and to be known. About how it feels to make our ways, both alone and together, through this thing called life.

About the nicknames we bestow to special people and the inside jokes we share over the years. About the importance of safe relationships in which you can ugly cry one minute and laugh hysterically the next; in which you can whisper to each other that your children approached asshole status earlier and also send each other photographs of and brag notes about those devil-angels later.

Yesterday, while one of my besties, C, and I were rearranging what furniture I do have (she grooves on that sort of thing which is one reason I love her), I received a mailing tube from Poland. I do not know anyone in Poland but I spied a fleur-de-lis stamp on the outside of the package and squealed a bit just as C said, "I bet it's a present." 

Friends, I did not think surprise gifts could get much cooler than the personalized knife of two weeks back, but the Polish treat is right on par with the blade from Japan. 

It is a LASER-ENGRAVED rolling pin, people. Peppered with FLEURS-DE-LIS. It wallpapers your cookies (or fondant or whatever) with fleurs! Say what?

Today after finally finishing a project I've been working on for the kids' school, I scurried to the kitchen and made some shortbread dough. As an aside, this is the only shortbread you should ever make. It is Ming Tsai's recipe, and it is off the hook. I sub vanilla bean paste for the vanilla bean innards. Same diff. If you have time, make the cookies several days in advance because they improve with age. Do NOT skimp on the salt.

Ok, anyway, back to the pin. Beyond the fact that it's just ridiculously cool and pretty, it is also exceedingly me, and that's what I love most about it. Amy, one of my dearest college besties, knows me inside and out, and she knew this was perfect and that I would adore it. Today on the phone, amidst my enthused goings-on, she said, "I mean, I looked on the woman's website and saw one WITH YOUR SYMBOL." 

Indeed. Why not have a symbol? You don't have to go all Prince about it, but rather, you can think about a symbol (or image if you prefer) as a nickname you give yourself.

I have always been an enormous fan of nicknames and feel quite happy when others start calling me something that seems to roll of their tongues without their even thinking.

In college, my best guy friend, Mike, and also my roommate, Rosemary, called me Emmy. Amy called me Ems (and still does), and I called her Ames (still do). My senior year boyfriend called me Emil. He's the only one to ever coin that one, and in many ways, that seems fitting. He was special and so was the name. Most everyone else called me Nichols (maiden name). 

My mom always called me Rascal, and now, most people call me Em. 

 seriously. how gorgeous are those cookies?!

seriously. how gorgeous are those cookies?!

My inability to completely let go of Nichols is the reason I took it back as part of my last name after briefly letting it go post-marriage. I realized that it was too tightly wound to the core of my identity to not use. Adding it back was like welcoming home a long-lost (in this case short-lost) friend. 

And now I have my beloved fleur-de-lis which is a state symbol of both Louisiana and Florence (where I grew up/my parents still live; where my sister lives) and also this blog and me. 

Forget about it with my kids. I call each of them at least a half-dozen different names including Doodle, Peaches, Onk and Bug.

Do you have an image that people connect with you? Something that makes people think, "Oh, that is SO her!" What about a nickname? Do you have one? More? What are your favorites? Have you ever been nicknamed something you hated?

I find that nicknames breed a greater familiarity and a whole lot of warmth. The world is nicer with those things in it. Go forth with symbols and nicknames and good friends!