Long before you had a choice or a vote or a single tooth, you were saddled with a word that would become forever You.
Have you grown into your name?
Or has the name grown to fit your vastness?
It is no small thing to be named after greatness. If you were named for a beloved saintly shimmering relative, the letters that spell your self can be big shoes to fill.*
But if you think that’s tough, just imagine if you’d been named for cheese.
She may go by Tina among friends (and if you happen to have ever been born, she considers you her friend), but it’s no secret that our grey-and-white whisper wisp is formally named Fontina.
The name suits. She is smooth, with no snap of sharpness. She is mellow, happy to accommodate even the most crackpot crackers with a smooth shmear of kindness. She is kin to late, great, fellow dairy-based darling Mozzarella, whose memory is a blessing.
She is, primarily, spectacular: a certified big cheese in a world of shreds and Whiz.
But in her mildness, Fontina risks falling into a frustrating fondue. She can be so gentle, so unassuming, so free from flecks of jalapeno snark or peppercorn hubris, that she goes unnoticed.
Fortunately, Fontina scarcely notices.
She’s too busy bearing her quiet charm, flavoring her world with nutty nurture, leaning into laps without demands or expectations or ego. Spend enough time by her side, and you just might find your own ego grated all over the floor, dismantled and defused and delightfully replaced by the kind of contentment that needs no name.
Mild and mellow, Fontina feels no need to foist her designs on you. She’s so gentle, she turns into a kind of mood ring, reflecting the heart and the needs of the particular human who draws near.
In need of a laugh? Fontina can churn up the goofosity ’til you’re melty with mirth.
Mournful and cuddle-hungry? Fontina is your quiet companion, soot-grey comfort smudged into your lap like sage.
Busy and whirling? Fontina will respect your schedule and your sense of importance, never insisting on more than a “hello.” Make you feel guilty? Never. You are loved simply for being.
For all this mildness and melding into the heart of the other, Fontina is no empty bowl. No: our wispy grey girl is so very much herself, she has the strength to live for others. She owns every inch of her name and her essence; she is at such peace that she can give and live without anxiously decorating her ego.
And that’s why she’s the perfect dairy delight for two special roommates.
Sharing the burden of a Great Name is one Audrey. When you’re named for the exuberant Hepburn who pixified the whole world, it’s easy to turn bashful, to doubt yourself, to bury your great tricolor light beneath the nearest bushel.
That’s precisely what Audrey did in Suite FIV, hurling herself into every hollow until people commented, “I forget she’s in there.” “Audrey has FIV?” “We have a cat named Audrey?”
Whether she didn’t think she could pull off tiny bangs and pearls, or she’s too much of a homebody for a proper Roman Holiday, or life itself is just a little too loud and large, Audrey feared everything from capri pants to her own name.
It was time to show her that this world is more velvet than Velveeta.
It was time to invite her to Breakfast at Jonathan’s.
It was time to fill her cup with the friendship that fits all spaces.
It was Fontina time.
And so it happened that the Cheese and the Hepburn became roommates. As of this writing, the girls are still getting to know each other (translation: studiously ignoring one another). What dreams may come? What feasts and fests may they find?
Will they watch classic movies and paint each other’s gnarled old-gal nails?
Will they read passages of Thomas Merton out loud and argue about what he meant?
Will they play pranks on Jonathan?
Oh, yes; the third roommate in this equation is the Biggest Cheese Himself, our eminent Founder and Executive Director (who may or may not have literally and repeatedly instructed his staff to address him as Your Eminence, but I digress).
Just between you and me, I think he needs these grandly-named grandes dames as much as they need him.
So let’s all get a little cheesy, kittens. Soften into someone else’s needs today. Be the mirror, and the melty gentle mystic, who can make the world mercifully mild again.
And if all else fails, remember that Tina has another namesake.
*Take it from me: I am the third Angela Elizabeth in a line of Sicilianas, and if I’m even 0.0001% as light-filled as the first two, I will die a happy ragazza.