June 28, 2022 • 3 Minute Read

What’s a ‘treebetty’?

Without fail, one of the first questions I get when I give someone my business card or email address is “What’s treebetty?” I’m always tempted to say, ‘oh that’s my mother’s maiden name’ or ‘that’s the town where I grew up in West Virginia’ but what often comes out is “It’s a long story” in the hope that they’re far too busy for a long explanation. Usually, they are too busy, but curiosity gets the best of them and they look at me expectantly.

So travel with me back to 1996. Back to a time of Netscape Gold and the early days of the web. Back then, I was two years out of college and living in Boston’s Back Bay. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends was go to my local cafe and will the time away with a good book or the newspaper. One Saturday in particular, I was sitting at a neighborhood cafe readying the paper in my favorite orange sweater and scarf when I heard someone noisily sit down at the table next to me. I looked up and thought ‘uh oh’ to myself. The person who had just sat down was a someone I would often see around the neighborhood. Without fail, he would be carrying a heavy shoulder bag (think Don Draper carry-on luggage, only not new) and have a possessed look in his eye. And now those eyes were staring at me from the next table and his luggage was on his lap.

I thought to myself. No problem. Just ignore him! So that’s what I did. I kept reading. Kept sipping my coffee. Kept acting natural. Kept not noticing him sitting there. Nope, he wasn’t staring at me or anything. And yet he kept staring! Perhaps 5 minutes went by. It seemed like 50. Suddenly he picks up the luggage and dumps its contents on the table. I had to look. To my relief, the table was now covered with old notebooks and boxes of crayons. No weapons or dead animals! Rejoice! And then to my surprise, he then picked up one of the notebooks, began staring at me again, and furiously started scribbling in it.

So again I thought to myself. You’ll be fine. Just ignore him. Again I kept reading. Kept sipping my coffee. Kept acting natural. And after 15 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore. In fact, I think I even said that out loud. “I HAVE to see what you’re drawing.”He paused for a moment and then pushed over a chair from his table in invitation. I swapped chairs and he handed me his notebook and what I found completely stunned me. It was a drawing of me. Beautiful lines lines and colors in a picasso-esque style loosely suggested my image. The main focal points of the drawing were my orange sweater and my lips. Not sure why my lips got all that attention, but there they were. ‘I love it’ I told him. “Pick the one you like best,” he said. So I did. And he then ripped it out of his notebook. Wrote ‘treebetty’ on it and then handed it to me. And then treebetty was born.

Related Reads

From Mom to App Developer

Another question people always ask me is “How did you start making apps? Aren’t you a graphic designer?!”

Feedback is Gold

As an indie app developer, thoughts and feedback from children (and librarians!) are like gold–precious, sometimes hard to come by, and something you can never have enough of.