Friday, August 19, 2011

The Origins of GongGong

GongGong fed me my first ever ice cream.
That was his birthday present.
Seeing as today is GongGong's birthday, I thought it appropriate to discuss the origins of GongGong.

Do I mean to discuss his, John Schiavi's, origins? Or the origins of the Chinese word for grandfather? Neither actually - both are above my current pay grade. But I will explain, since many of you have been clamoring to know (and I don't blame you), how did mommy's daddy come to be known to me as GongGong?

It was just over a year ago when I made my lauded appearance in the world. Some, however, were still unprepared. While Grandma decided she would be known as "Grandma" from the day she knew of my existence, and Dede wouldn't have considered any other word but the Armenian one for grandfather, mommy's parents were at odds with their names. Nonni and Nonno were my great-great grandparents. Nanni and Popi are my great-grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa were my other great-grandparents who I didn't get to meet. Those names were off limits along with all of their derivatives including Nonna, Nanna, etc.

GongGong was considering the name Papa. But not only is that already taken by the Pope, it is also the word for father in several language. Mommy ruled it out thus sending GongGong back to the drawing board.

But it wasn't long before GongGong stepped into his own name. It happened on one of those days after I was born and we were still dwelling at the hospital. Mommy was on a Skype call with Mimi and GongGong. It was 1 a.m. Israeli time and she had just gone to her room after spending some time with my sleepy self. Mommy, unbeknownst to her, was in the throes of the post-birth hormonal rush when the happy endorphins that carried her for a few days after birth decided to flee all at once like the herd of pigs rushing over the cliff, as they apparently do to every woman post birth. Never mind the fact that I was under careful surveillance for health issues and a litany of bad tidings had overwhelmed my parents for a few days already. Mommy was in a state.

Since 1 a.m. in Israel is 6 p.m. that meant dinner time in New York. And GongGong was eating General Tsao's chicken, fried rice and spareribs while happily and obliviously chatting away. In either an effort to cheer her up, or simply because he thought it was funny, GongGong asked mommy if she wanted to hear some Chinese prophecies.

Mommy is well acquainted with her father's humor at this point in her life and she instantly did the math: Chinese prophecies = fortune cookies. Okay, this was where she drew the line. At 1 a.m., already sleep deprived and mopey, mommy had had enough and ended the conversation. Still incensed the following morning she told abba about the Chinese prophecies. Abba didn't quite share mommy's indignation. Instead, he decided to start googling and he stumbled across this gem: the word for maternal grandfather to a baby boy is GongGong. (Actually it could be WaiGong, but having zero Chinese roots in our genealogy we can be forgiven for this small mistake.)

And thus, the legend of GongGong was born.

Mimi and GongGong pose with their
new grandparent mugs.

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