Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

Today’s column is a glossary, designed to define and explain some of the terms and names I have coined or used over the years I have been writing it. In short, the intention is to answer some of the inquiries readers have posed.

The most frequent question is, “What does B.E. mean?” The answer is Blessed Event. As a latecomer to parenthood, when our first child arrived, I wrote a column in which I referred to him as a Blessed Event. As I kept writing, I abbreviated the term to B.E., and thus it began, to be expanded after the arrival of No. 2, hence the Elder and the Young B.E.s. When they were coming along, they would tell folks, “We’re the B.E.s.” 

After the Elder B.E. committed matrimony, I added his wife to the litany as the Intermediate B.E., as she is between the ages of the two B.E.s. Now that another generation has arrived, we have the two “Youngest B.E.s,” and on it goes.

One of the most popular column topics has centered on my reflections on Gladys. Her shenanigans seem to interest a wide circle of readers, many of whom have asked how we came up with her name. Gladys was a present from Michelle Simmons, the poultry guru of the Northern Neck, intended to be the consort of Lou, who since has died. The date was September 28, 2013, which was the birthday of our good friend, the late Gladys Watson, thus the name seemed to be an obvious choice. 

Gladys and her late husband, Sam, were the proprietors of The Shoe Store, and for many years Gladys operated the Kilmarnock Beauty Salon on West Church Street. In her spare time, she was esteemed by all for her great skill at gardening. She was amused by our use of her name for a pet goose, to which I would tell her that the next gander would be named “Sam.”

While on the subject of geese, Henry, the gander, came to us already with his name, therefore he is not my namesake, as many have surmised. Over two years ago, as an egg he was hatched by Lewis Shelton at his home in White Stone. Lewis attempted to send him along with a migrating gaggle, but they did not mix at all, leading Lewis to give him to us. He seems to enjoy life on the farm, and his arrival has mitigated Gladys’s incessant honking.

Eve, the cat, does not owe her name to our original mother, the spouse of Adam, but rather to her having arrived unannounced and unexpected at our house last December 24th, Christmas Eve. The name was selected by the Intermediate B.E., and it fits. 

Eve is somewhat of a duplicitous individual in that each morning and evening when one of us will feed her, she gobbles up the serving, and then goes to another family member pretending that she has not eaten. Rarely has the ploy worked, but we need to tell each other that she has dined in order to avoid her becoming a behemoth. Quite simply, she really likes to eat, and never turns down a single morsel.

In March 1985, I wrote the first of the R.I.P.s after the passing of Robert M. Lee Jr., the production manager of the Rappahannock Record. Since that time, I have received numerous inquiries as to why I end a tribute to the deceased with R.I.P. I have been asked if it stands for “Really Important Person,” or an unfamiliar academic degree, or some secret society, among many other speculations.

In Latin, R.I.P. stands for “Requiescat in Pace,” which translated into English is “Rest in Peace.” It occasionally appears on tombstones in older cemeteries, as the traditional homage to the departed.

My thanks to the readers for your comments and questions. I shall return to the glossary in another column down the road.