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Friday, March 18, 2005

We Are the Fairchilds, Couldn't Be Prouder

When I married Jif, I took my husband's last name, unlike many women in my generation. My maiden name is an ordinary one (in the south), of German derivation. There was nothing wrong with the name, but it always bugged me that it ended in -ie, and since my first name ends in -ie, it was just too too much much -ie -ie, and I looked forward to trying something new.

When most people hear our last name, they think, and sometimes ask, "Is that Italian?" If they see it written, they know it is not. But they don't know what it is. That's because it is the shortened form of a longer, more exotic central European name. I've never seen or heard what the original name was. But if you or I ever did hear that name, I am sure it would call to mind smells of cabbage rolls and images of Pysanky Easter eggs, and maybe the Danube. Not bad, but not me.

If I could choose a last name, just pick my very own, I would want it to be one that would call to mind the smell of honeysuckle and magnolia, the flavor and feel of sipping sweet iced tea on the veranda in the breeze of a evenin'. Ya'll with me? About 12 years ago, my dear beau chose for us just such a name, with the help of a Cracker Barrel hostess.

We were headed to Tennessee (C'mon baby, drive South...with the one you love...) to meet our friends, Shelley and Ed, at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee. We stopped en route at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, as we do when we head south. I don't fry, I don't have a large lard cuisine repertoire, don't do much southern cooking, but we both love the food, so we indulge when we go visiting in those parts. We walked up to the hostess to put our always mispronounced, often misspelled, two-syllable, Americanized Slovakian name on the list. But her southern ears couldn't hear what Jif said. Even after 4 attempts, they couldn't catch it. What she did hear was a four-syllable, Southern pronunciation that was something like, "Fay-uh-chah-uld." And she said, just a little inhospitably, after Jif's fourth attempt, "Yay-us, ah hay-uv it rat heah," and she showed him on the list, right there, big as life, F-A-I-R-C-H-I-L-D. Fairchild. Fairchild. Jif and I looked at each other and knew we'd been born again as Southern aristocracy. Never again would we go in a Cracker Barrel and be shamed by our name. "Yes," says Jif. "Thank you, that's it." And we browsed among the downhome tchotchkes until they called, "Fairchild, party of two."

As we continued on our journey, everywhere we stopped, we were the Fairchilds. And believe you me, we only had to say it once. That there name OPENS DOORS. We met Shelley and Ed in Jonesboro, and had a wonderful time at the storytelling festival. On the last evening there, we had a special dinner at a lovely restaurant called the Parson's Table, probably the fanciest restaurant in the town, housed in what was once the First Christian Church. The meal was exquisite, and as we neared the end of it, we started discussing the next item on our itinerary -- the ghost-story telling, to be held in the dark, in the cold, in the town cemetery. We decided that some big ol' cups of hot-chocolate-to-go would be the perfect accompaniment to sitting on the cold, cold ground hearing spine-chilling stories.

I said to our young waitress, Maggie, "We'd like four very large cups of hot chocolate to take with us, please." That's when the evening took a turn for the weird.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," says Maggie. "We don't serve hot chocolate, and we don't have any to-go cups." And she continued clearing our table.

You don't talk like that to a Fairchild. Didn't she know with whom she was dealing? I decided to find out. "Maggie?" I said in my sweetest condescending aristocrat voice. "Honey, do you know who we are?"

She looked at me for a long moment. "No, ma'am, I don't."

I gave a slight smile and shake of my head to my dinner companions, as if to say, "Let's forgive her, for she knows not what she does."

Then I said to Maggie, "Does the name, 'FAIRCHILD' mean anything to you, dear?"

Maggie took a fraction of a step back, and looked me in the eye, then answered in a small voice, "No, ma'am, it doesn't. But I'm new here. I'm sure the manager would know you." And with that she turned and walked away.

Well, we sat there talking, laughing, waiting for the check. We waited a long time. I started to feel a little bit remorseful. Did I shake her up? Did I frighten her? Oh, here she comes. And she's carrying . . .

"Here's your hot chocolates, Mrs. Fairchild. I'm sorry I didn't know you, like I said, I'm new. My manager sure knows you, and she said sorry about the misunderstanding about the hot chocolates. And she says she hopes ya'll enjoyed your dinner, and will come back and see us again soon. And the hot chocolates are compliments of the house, because of the misunderstanding."

Oh, yea. We've been the Fairchilds in every restaurant, ever since. And on our Christmas cards to Shelley and Ed.

19 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger LadyBug said...

Okay. Did you....Did that seriously....I mean....Is that TRUE?? Seriously? 'Cause if so....that's hilarious. But also a little freaky.

I mean, true or not, it's still hilarious. But if you really got 'special treatment' for that name....that's just a little weird.

Great story. You cracked me up.

 
Blogger LadyBug said...

P.S. - I'm so glad my comment went through! Yay! I tried all day yesterday to comment, and couldn't get through.

So I'll just go ahead and add here...Your "Maternal Mortification" post was abso-fargin-lutely hilarious. And had me in stitches.

And the Biscuit pictures. Well...I think maybe Biscuit is releasing his inner drag queen. *snicker*

 
Blogger Effie said...

That is HILARIOUS!!! Everyone I know mispronounces our last name so we just put our first names down to be called in to a restaurant--I can't believe that you actually got the hot chocolates for free too! I hope they were good!
I had to stifle my laughter a bit so people wouldn't look over here--thanks for brightening my day!!

 
Blogger Susie said...

LadyBug, hi! Yea, the slow comments are making me crazy. And yes, we absolutely did that, and do that. I don't know who the Fairchilds are, but when we impersonate them we get VIP treatment, baby.
It can now be revealed, Biscuit is gay. Biscuit is also a drag queen. And we're OK with that. BTW, your Angela Lansbury comment on Dr. JF's site cracked me up last night. Perfect:)

 
Blogger Susie said...

effie, honey, just pick a name and start using it. You never know, you might get special treatment, free stuff, arrested...

 
Anonymous mrtl said...

Well, I was going to ask what the inside joke about the Fairchilds is, but it looks like you don't know either.

What would screw us on doing something like that is that we use a credit card for everything. Cash in hand is cash spent.

 
Blogger Mamaramma said...

As I scrolled down to the end of your hilarious post, I saw the title to LG's essay. How ironic.
Just kidding! I love the story, and I wish I were ballsy enough to pull it off!

 
Blogger Greenthumb said...

I'm on board with the hilarity comments. Priceless!

I'm of German decent and have my last name to contend with. I have my routine when I have to spell it out now, because, I have to spell it out every time even though it's only 5 letters long.

Maybe the next time Nick and I are abroad, just for kicks, we'll try and a new name. Kinda like playing the lottery.

 
Blogger Susie said...

mrtil, we just thought it sounded like an old, wealthy, Southern name, and I think we might have been right. I have never met an actual Fairchild:)

mama!you GOT me! Here I'm bragging about my lie, and then BAM! It's so wrong! Kids'll do that to you.

ladies, and greenie the person you give your name to is never the one who sees your credit card anyway, so we do it when we're using credit, too. C'mon, you wusses, it's not a bad thing. It's not even illegal to use a false name, unless you're attempting to defraud someone. (oh, wait...does hot chocolate extortion count?)

 
Anonymous jjf said...

I'm proud to be a Fairchild!

 
Blogger Closet Metro said...

Inmate #1: "What are you in for?"
Susie: "Extortion"
Inmate #1: "What went wrong?"
Susie: "Nevermind that. Do you know who I am?"
Inmate #1: "No, should I"
Susie: "Does the name Machine Gun Fairchild mean anything to you?"

 
Blogger Susie said...

closet metro, Yes, looking back, that was the beginning of my life of crime. Led to blogging and other nefarious activity...

 
Blogger Dang Cold.. said...

ha..

So I guess it wouldn't get me anywhere if I called myself Enoch McCoy or Littel Zeke from Possum Creek? ;)

dc

 
Blogger Susie said...

oh, don't be so all-fired sure about that,dang, I've been in certain locales in which Littel Zeke from Possum Creek might get his own self some specialized treat-mint; give it a try, and report back to the class . . .

 
Blogger the niffer said...

That is absolutely hilarious. My luck they would mistake me for being related to the local whore and throw the hot chocolate in my face.

 
Blogger portuguesa nova said...

As a long time waitress, I'm inclined to feel bad for the poor hot chocolate girl...but that is so funny, and brilliant! My husband is from Portugal but has a name that makes us sound Mexican...whenever we go anywhere, everyone and their brohter who have taken even a day of Spanish I in junior high school immediately respond with a very heavily accented, "Well, then, hola and bienvenidos!!"

If we were Mexican, I don't know if it would be flattering or annoying...but since he doesn't even speak Spanish, its downright bizarre.

From now on, Fairchilds it is.

 
Blogger Susie said...

aw, niffer, surely that wouldn't happen. What are you, a styrofoam-cup-half-empty kinda girl? I'm sure you'd get the same VIP treatment as us Fairchilds, if you only happened to have or to steal the right name...

Portuguesa Nova, the more Fairchilds, the merrier. See you at the family reunion!

 
Anonymous Stuck-up Bitch said...

Talk about identity theft. So you are the Fairchilds giving the rest of us the bad name. The last time I was at the Pig Picker's I was persona non gratis because some other Fairchild wrecked havoc throughout the place with her "Do you know who I am?". The muffin girl never came to my table while at another fine restaurant in the area. I got your number cutie and woe betide you if our paths cross.

 
Blogger Susie said...

EZ, now, SUB, are you sure you weren't p.n.g. even before you entered the Pig Picker's? Getting dissed by the muffin girl would be devastating; she always offers to bake us sumpin special!

 


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