She was old and fat, the thick heaviness of years weighing her down like anchors, sitting in her lawn chair, squares of her flowered dress pushing through the gaps where the cheap vinyl straps crossed and overlapped. She was brushing through her dictionary, looking for the words that had been lost in the fog of her antiquity, trying to find the right way to describe what had become of her children.
''I've had as many children as I could, each child named after a saint.'' Italians have more saints than women have eggs so we never run out of names for all our kids.''
The fact is, there are many saints, at least 800, but most families used the same small group of names so that it had to be decided by qualifiers to know which Thomas or which James you were talking about.
''My Tommy'' or ''Your Tom'' or ''Big John'', ''Tina who eats liver,'', ''James, who is good looking'' were some of the ways they spoke about the different nieces or nephews when families got together to eat and gossip. Every family had their own way of going about separating their sons from the other. ''Your James, the mechanic'' or ''My Tom, the pyromaniac''. Everyone used the same names in the family so that when a new one was born it was thought that the new parents named their son or daughter after you, which was a true fact that kept down petty jealousies and made many people stick out their chest at a baptism.
The old woman looked at the dictionary and pushed her finger into the page.
''That's it, Hungry and Hunter'' She was pointing out that even though they were twins, just a few genetic letters different made a world of difference. They were twins, but each one had his own yolk sac.
''Almost the same, but different. '' She flipped a few chapters over and nosed in, ''Sunup and Sundry''.
All the rest of her children were anagramically similar, all using the exact same letters but with different meanings. For the most part, you could pick out the siblings in a group of 107 first cousins, but sometimes you could slip up with so many of the same genes spread around. The most unusual confusion occurred between the Marys. They were born two days apart, and after the first week home from the hospital, the families got together to show off. By chance, the mothers had bought the exact same outfits for the kids, and after passing them around for everyone to GooGoo and bababa, they returned them to their mothers and somehow confused the girls. It wasn't until that night when they went to change their diapers that the mistake was uncovered. One mother had cloth diapers with a monogram of a stork on the fringe and the other was plain. This sort of thing happened several times with these girls so that ''Mary that eats Ice'' let her hair grow long and kept it in braids to distinguish her from ''Mary who steps on ants.'' mothers wedding dresses