A speech hiccup results in a serendipitous name for a reminder of generosity.
The story of the Twingler begins with Chris and Sharon Roller, a married couple who toured the west in their truck and tiny travel trailer, with three boisterous Boston Terriers. Chris was big, and the dogs were bouncy. I never knew what kind of magic allowed all of them to fit into whatever wee domicile they happened to be towing (usually an Airstream, Casita or Scamp), and I tried not to think about it too much.
We (my partner at the time and I) met them at the Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson, AZ, shortly after our arrival in the southwest. We eventually purchased a large Silver Streak travel trailer from them and became campground hosts ourselves. Chris and Sharon imparted much wisdom about travel trailer life, campground hosting, and buying and selling vintage anything, especially Singer sewing machines and accessories. I bought a vintage black and gold Singer from Sharon and still use it sometimes, twenty-odd years later.
Chris and Sharon were awesome people. Friendly, outgoing, helpful, kind. I just adored them. I lost track of them after they migrated to Alaska (I think). I’ve tried to find them through their son, Eric, but to no avail. I would love to be able to tell them how much their friendship meant at a tough time in our lives.
The Rollers loved to shop at estate sales and swap meets. (How they fit their finds into the tiny trailers as well, again, I do not wish to know.) They gifted us a small brass wind chime, a vintage design with a five-armed, pagoda-shaped top, five slender brass tubes, and a fake-Chinese-character “tail” (whatever that part is called that catches the wind and makes the chime parts move). It made a lovely light sound and was a fond souvenir of our friendship.
One day I was saying something to my partner about the wind chime, I don’t know what. For the life of me, I couldn’t say what the damn thing was called — the words “wind chime” would not come to mind.
“The, the…” I sputtered, “the, the…..the Twingler!”
My brain assembled a word from the sound it made (twing) with a word part meaning “something that does something” (ler). And came up with twingler. And so the wind chime became the Twingler, and even complete strangers knew what it meant, even though the word was completely made-up and they’d never heard it before.
Over the decades, the Twingler has had a hard life. The original string deteriorated, the replacement fishing line got brittle, the tail got bent and almost got lost. Some kind of bee has decided to lay its eggs inside the tubes, so the Twingler doesn’t always go “twing” like it used to. But it hangs off my back patio today. It still reminds me of the Rollers and their kindness and generosity. And it reminds me that the truth of the thing will always find a way to make itself known, even when the words fail us.