Today on Twitter I asked if “Tim Carmody” or “Timothy Carmody” sounded better as a writing byline. I had to explain that my last name is pronounced CAR-muh-dee (a dactyl, stress just on the first syllable) rather than car-MOE-dee. There are other various mispronunciations and misspellings — many people who hear my name think it’s spelled “Carmondy” — but that’s the usual one. And this is one of the strange things about the ambient intimacy of the internet — people you interact with regularly, even intimately, don’t know the sound of your voice, how tall you are, or how to pronounce their name.
Anyways, riffing on my name brought up other stories. For instance, I’m named after my great-uncle, who (like me) was named Timothy Brendan Carmody, but unlike me, was called “Ted.” I was “Timmy” growing up, and my brothers and sister and cousins still call me Timmy. (None of the grownups do, for some reason.) Everyone in my family has an -y at the end of their name: we even call my brothers Sean and Kevin Seanny and Kevvy. My mom is Roxanne (Roxy) and my dad is Jim (as a teenager, Jimmy). I’m the third of four kids; my sister is the oldest and was the toughest kid in my neighborhood growing up. She lives in New York now and designs handbags.
Uncle Ted was my paternal grandather’s brother. The story I always heard was that my grandfather, Patrick Carmody, left the family farm to his younger brothers because he thought they were too stupid to do anything but farming, while he could learn how to do something else. He came to the US through Canada after World War II and eventually got a job as an electrician for Detroit Edison, the power company. He grew up just a mile or two away from my grandmother in County Kerry, but they met in Detroit. My grandmother worked at Henry Ford hospital as administrative staff for years; she just passed away last fall, my last living relative I knew who 1) was born in Ireland and 2) lived within Detroit’s city limits. My grandfather’s name was Patrick; my grandmother was Ellie O’Neill.
My mom’s dad was named William Francis Xavier St Onge; his father was French Canadian, his mother Ojibwa Indian. (My cousins on my mom’s side all have dark hair and skin; it’s amazing what marrying a full-blooded Irishman washes out of your offspring’s complexion.) He grew up in Ironwood, MI, in the upper peninsula, and had a ridiculous number of brothers and sisters. He served in the Army Air Corps in India and Indochina during World War II and worked in a tool and die shop after the war. My grandmother was Phyllis Benhauer, and I think sometimes Phyllis Hitzfield (after her stepfather), before she was Phyllis St Onge. Her father Ralph Benhauer was sheriff of Dade County, Florida, but after her mom found out he was cheating on her, she packed up her two small children and moved to Indiana to take a factory job. We called my great-grandmother “Okie-dokie Grandma,” because she used all sorts of eclectic old slang. She was 5’1″ and played semi-professional basketball.
My parents met in Detroit, naturally, in high school. They both went to single-sex Catholic schools, my dad on the west side in a mostly Catholic/Mexican neighborhood, my mom on the east side in a mostly Italian one. (As a consequence, if I grew up with any kind of ethnic cuisine apart from my grandmother’s ritual Irish gastropunishments, it was these three. Plus Greek, because everyone in Detroit eats Greek food all the time.) They married when they were nineteen — six days after my dad’s birthday, in fact, a date which is almost exactly nine months before my birthday.
My dad just retired from working for Wayne County, first at the jail for thirty-odd years, then for the county executive (the sheriff took my dad with him when he ran for the higher office). My mom had a lot of jobs when I was growing up; tending bar, working at 7-11s and butcher shops, then for a Ford dealership for a while while I was in college. She’s a little redheaded lady; my dad has a moustache and looks (and talks) a little bit like Scruffy the Janitor from Futurama, but with glasses.
I played football and ran track in high school and was valedictorian in 1997. I went to Michigan State University on academic scholarship, which is where I met Robin Sloan, who had the same scholarship a year later. We each co-founded hellaciously friendly rival literary magazines, where we both unapologetically published ourselves and our friends. (I even wrote some poems for Robin’s mag.) I got degrees in philosophy and mathematics, then went to the University of Chicago for a year before ending up at Penn’s PhD program in Comp Lit.
Aaaaand… that more or less gets us to where we are. Demographically, anyways.
PS: I totally think this should be a mini-series. For instance, did you know Robin was born in Illinois, or that Matt’s family comes from Guyana? What other stories are they keeping to themselves?