Growing Up On The Road: A Love Story of Music Gypsies
By Bellatrix "Tonks"Criss
I'd like to thank my parents, Isabelle and Darren Criss for the weird and wild childhood that made me who I am today.
This book is a true collaboration full of stories shared with me by my family and friends as well as memories of my own.
If you are unaware of my parents celebrity I'd like to buy you a drink sometime and talk about what growing up Amish was like.
I'll give you the short version. Mom was a celebrated vocal coach and show coordinator for some (most) of the biggest names in the business. Dad was a world famous actor and musician. They met when Mom had a fully established career and Dad was starting out on a TV show about kids in a Glee Club, before he became Mr. Leading Man.
My siblings and I grew up in a weird world of tour buses and movie sets.
They have memories that directly contradict some of mine, but if they want to set the record straight as they see it they can write their own damn books. (Love you guys!)
We might as well get the whole thing about my name out of the way right up front.
As far back as I can remember my family, and their friends, called me Tonks, my Grandparents on both sides called me Ella which I thought was an endearment like "Sweetie" or "Honey". I didn't know my name wasn't actually Tonks until my first day of school.
"Bellatrix Criss...Bellatrix?" The teacher called out the weird name but no one raised their hand or said "Here." as we'd been instructed. I remember thinking that if my name was Bellatrix I probably wouldn't raise my hand either.
Marsh, my twin brother, raised his hand when his name was called and I listened closely waiting for my turn. When all of the names were called but my own a I raised my hand.
"You skipped me."
"And you are?"
"Tonks..." The teacher checked her list, looking for anything Tonks could possibly be short for I assume. Coming up empty.
"What's your full name?"
Marshall raised his hand, "That's my sister. Grammy calls her Ella. Is there an Ella?"
Recognition crossed the teachers face. "Harry Potter fans shouldn't be allowed to name children." She murmured.
"I did call your name. You are Bellatrix. Tonks is just a nickname."
A little red head spoke without raising her hand, "What's a nickname?"
That night at dinner I waited until Mom and Dad were settled in and turned to ask us how our first day of school was.
"Why didn't you tell me my real name?" I asked, very seriously. I was upset with them and wanted them to know I was onto their lie.
"What're you talking about, you know your name." My mother said as she took a squished pea from my 2 year old sister's fingers and replaced it with a baby sized spoon.
"My name is Tonks but the teacher said it's Fellasticks."
"Bellatrix." Dad corrected, then looked at Mom, I'm not sure we've ever actually told her that."
"How could she not know? She's heard us introduce her to people."
They didn't often talk as if we weren't right there, but that night they did.
Dad explained. "We named you Bellatrix after a star in the sky that is named after a warrior girl."
I liked the star part but the second part confused me. "What's a warrior?"
"Someone strong and in charge." Dad said between bites of quinoa.
"That's you all right." Marshall interrupted. My brother was always more of a "go along and keep the peace" kind of kid. He's still that way as an adult. He never understood my foot stomping, demanding ways but somehow always reaped the benefits of my demands, when they were met, which was only occasionally and usually by Dad or Uncle Joey. Mom was a much more difficult sell. You had to lay out reasons and justifications for Mom. For Dad it was enough that something would make me happy and was unlikely to do any permanent damage.
Marshall had a higher success rate because he asked for much less. It didn't take long for me to recognize and try to exploit this. Unfortunately for me Marsh is not easily persuaded to be a bother.
I digress ( get used to that, Mom's a linear thinker, Dad and I are...not.)
"Then why does everyone call me Tonks?"
"It's from a movie, one of our favorites. Tonks was a girl who was magical and could change her appearance to be any kind of animal she wanted."
I protested that I couldn't do that so the name didn't make sense. They said it made sense to them and someday soon they'd show us the movies so it would make sense to me too.
It was an unsatisfactory answer but what can you do? You can bug them relentlessly until one night the entire family (minus tiny Alex ) sits down to watch the movie. Marsh and I sat on the floor, Mom and Dad curled up together in the sofa and Uncle Joey on a chair. Uncle Joey must have told us a million times how great this was going to be.
Only Tonks wasn't in the movie. It was an excellent movie, don't get me wrong, though it was hard to concentrate with all of the adults singing songs and telling jokes Marsh and I didn't get about it.
I did eventually see all of the Harry Potter movies and became livid that I had the name (Bellatrix) of such an evil character but Dad insisted I was named for the star and not the character. I did like Tonks though, she was funny and cool.
When everyone at school thinks your name is Bellatrix you get a lot if Bell, Bella and later, Trixie. Trixie was my favorite until junior high when it was twisted to something more unsavory by mean girls and boys who got wind of prostitutes "turning tricks" but by then I was quite capable of telling anyone and everyone to go fuck themselves.
So Tonks I was and Tonks I remain.