Reminiscing, as an 80-year-old Evanstonian is wont to do, I recently thought of nicknames, namely those I have had.
When we were kids growing up, given names meant nothing when funny situations or events happened that forever marked that person with an embedded nickname.
Back in the 40s, I played on a neighborhood softball team sponsored by Lord’s Department Store (long gone from downtown Evanston). Because of my size, not prowess, my teammates started calling me “Babe.” It seemed appropriate to my position as catcher. In a goodwill gesture, Lord’s sponsored all four teams from different parts of Evanston. We were the Lord’s Eagles; others were Lord’s Angels, Spitfires, and the Mustangs. You get the idea.
Upon entering Evanston Township High School, I went out for the basketball team. When I was a sophomore, our coach, Mr. Ralph Potter, affixed the name of “Treetop” to me, as I was tall and played center and was expected to get rebounds. Luckily, I got rid of that moniker by the time I graduated in 1947.
Fast forward. Years later, my wife and I were in the Spanish countryside, all alone, the sun descending, soft brown tones everywhere, quiet – a magical moment. We had gotten out of our rental car and sat on an outcropping watching this panorama, holding hands. Not a word was spoken – unbroken silence for 20 minutes. As we returned to the car, I noticed a wizened tree nearby, and looking more closely, I saw it was an old shriveled cork tree. Something stirred within me as I told myself that cork would be my medium, and my artistic name would be “Normano.”
Over time, with that memory in mind, I went to nearby liquor stores asking for any spare corks they could give me from wine-tasting events. Over the years, I have produced four “sculptures”: “Faces in the Crowd,” “Circularity,” “Just Hanging Around” and “Vintages.” Whether all this elevates corks to an artistic art form is an open question, but for me it has been truly an exciting trip, exploring a creative side of my nature that I might never have found.
So, “Babe,” “Treetop,” and “Normano,” I tip my hat. I have enjoyed the fascinating ride that we have shared.