Griffla’s creative writing assignment for today:
Write about a character who has been named after a space term. What’s the story behind the character getting their name? How do they feel about it? How do they hold their body when they introduce themselves to someone? How do people react to the name?
It was the first day of 5th grade for Giovanni Cassini Ricci and he held his mother Sarah’s hand tightly as they walked up the steps to the front door. Sarah leaned over to kiss his cheek. He didn’t stop her. Cassini, she whispered, it will be okay. The other boys and girls will like you. Don’t call me that, Mommy! He pulled his hand away abruptlly. My name is Joey. Why can’t you call me Joey? Okay, go, Jooooh-eeeee she mocked as he went through the school door. Sarah laughed and continued to her job at the high school where she taught French and Astronomy.
Joey Ricci had learned early in his American elementary school experiences that no good will come when you are asked your name and you reply Giovanni Cassini Ricci, in Dallas, Texas. No one could ever pronounce Giovanni. Joh-vannie, the teacher would say in a southern drawl. He hated it. Cassini was what his mother called him. Giovanni had heard the story too many times of how he came to be named Giovanni Cassini. For now he insisted on the name Joey, because he heard it on the tv show “Friends.” There was an Italian character he liked on the show named Joey Tribbiani. He was handsome, a bit slow, but could charm the girls. So he picked Joey for his name when he entered 4th grade after moving to Dallas from Chicago.
Secretly, Joey actually liked his middle name Cassini. When he arrived at college in New York, Joey told everyone his name was Cassini Ricci. It was a new city, a new school, and girls in his class would light up when he introduced himself. Of course he faked an Italian accent when he said it, but the girls ate it up. Joey had been born in Chicago and then lived in Dallas and had a strange combination of both regional dialects when he spoke. So, Presto! Joey became Cassini Ricci, born in Milano, a distant relation to fashion designer Oleg Cassini.
It wasn’t until he met Lila Jane Cohen that he let the charade fall. Lila was an Astro-Physics major and met Cassini in the library, one very cold night in October. October 15, 1997. He would never forget that day.
Lila was a sophomore and saw a very handsome freshman from her dormitory floor. She wanted to meet him and they met cute that evening in the library. Lila asked him if she could borrow a pen. Hers had run out of ink.
What’s your name, Lila said. Cassini, he poured the accent on real smooth. You’re kidding, she laughed. No, I’m not. He folded his arms in front of his chest and stood back against the wall. She knows I’m a fraud, he suddenly thought. She knows I’m Joey from Dallas.
He was so wrong.
So you know what tonight is, right, Cassini? Lila asked. He had no clue. Lila explained that the Cassini-Huygens unmanned spacecraft was launching tonight and being sent to Saturn. Lila went on to explain to him who Giovanni Cassini was. He smiled. His mother had told him all about him. He liked Lila, so he let her tell him the story behind his namesake.
Giovanni Cassini, she explained, was a famous astronomer and engineer born in Italy in 1625. He later moved to Paris and set up the Paris Observatory while becoming the official astronomer and astrologer to Louis XIV, The Sun King. He spent the rest of his life in Paris and became known as Jean-Dominque Cassini. He died in 1712. The Cassini-Huygens space probe launched successfully, as did the relationship between future husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Giovanni Cassini Ricci.