An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an operamane. I have often wondered about the flukey events that had me, a native of Helen Mitchell’s no-place-like-homeland, marrying into an almost impenetrable expatriate Southern Italian dynasty. I was only the third outsider to break into the family, and there was plenty of resistance before the final (overwhelmingly unconditional) welcome. Perhaps the Melba name was a secret protective talisman or password, sign of a destiny that had my place waiting for me, despite us all and our histories. But I am probably making too much of it. Sometimes names just happen. My own grand-daughter Laetitia embodies and radiates her etymological joy and gladness, but her naming came from a Serge Gainsbourg song that her French father happened to like.