When I was a little kid I used to look on the racks and racks of keychains that were in gas stations and at the mall. I’d look and look (and I admit, I still do it to this day) but I was always really bummed out to never find my name among the rows of names like “Jane”, “Susan”, and “Debbie”.
The meaning of names are a big deal in my family.
We have nicknames and endearments for everything and everyone. It’s almost an affront if we don’t give or receive one of some sort if we have a personal relationship with you.
I blame my father.
I will say right up front that I a lot of my personality traits come from my dad.
(I even look like him.) (Which, really, does nothing to ease the thought in my head that I look like a dude.)
My dad is pretty much single handedly responsible for all the name weirdness that has gone on with us through the years.
While I love a good nickname (I still laugh riotiously that one of my good friends named her goldfish “Leotha” and “Verdeena” after two of my aunts when we were in college), my father names EVERYTHING. Oatmeal cookies are “Gildas” if they have Cocoa in them they become “Gorillas”.
When I say my family has nicknames for everything?
There was quite a nosy neighbor that used to live in my parent’s neighborhood. My father ALWAYS called her “VAL”. One day “Val” made the comment: “I don’t think that your father knows my name isn’t really “Val.”
All of us had more tact than to tell her “Val” was short for “Valkyrie Maiden”.
My dad’s nickname for me was much kinder, though sometimes I wonder why he didn’t just name me “Jill” since that is pretty much all he calls me. I can’t say as I can complain overly since my sister, Melinda, has the moniker “Frog” and twin sister got stuck with the name “Anna Maria Stanzetti”.
(SEE? I TOLD YOU HE WAS WEIRD.)
(But in a freakishly good way.)
(Like, because of him I was able to recite “The Jabberwocky” in Kindergarten for show and tell and then in first grade I explained “taxation without representation” to my class, which my father illustrated and explained every time he took us to a trip we earned to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone by taking a big freaking bite of it first.)
(And like I can talk. I gave my brother the nickname “Bradley Brown Burrito Socks”, so ya know…I got no room to judge.)
(And like I said, I had to come from somewhere, right?)
(I would also like to add that I was still in high school in the above photo and I take grooming my eyebrows MUCH MORE SERIOUSLY NOW.)
My dad is also a MAJOR Gone With the Wind fan.
He named his first two children “Rhett” and “Melanie”. (As a side note, my maiden name is “Mitchell” and my nephew married a girl named Margaret. My father about died of bliss when a Margaret Mitchell joined the clan. Heh.)
When my twin sister and I were born he wanted to name us “Scarlett” and “Vivien”, but my mother put her foot down and we became “Loralee” & “Loraina”, instead.
The name “Loralee” is a variation of “Lorelei” which is basically the siren-harpy-mermaid-like-chick that sits on a rock and when she sings, she lures sailors to their deaths with her voice. (Which I actually always thought was cool since I thought I would be making a living singing on a stage for a living.)
Or, you can believe the other definition of “Loralee”, which is said to translate from the bay, or laurel plant. ”
In the ancient world, laurel leaves were used to fashion the crowns of victorious athletes, poets and soldiers. As the Roman poet Ovid explains, this practice had its origins in the story of the god Apollo’s pursuit of the beautiful nymph Daphne. Scorning his advances, she ran from him until he overcame her. She called on Peneus the river god for help, and he transformed her into a laurel tree. Apollo still loved her, and took her leaves as his special symbol. As he was the god of poetry, music, science and just about every other human accomplishment, laurel crowns came to be used to adorn Apollo’s champions.
(I have no pictures of me either being turned into a tree or being chased by a ridiculously talented and insanely hot Greek God, so I had to make due with wearing a flower and call it good.)
So, according to this, I have a choice between singing while half-naked on a rock and luring Navy dudes to their deaths or going all Lord of the Rings Ent Party! and turning into a tree to get away from some hot-dude-turned-quasi-predator that can’t seem to take no for an answer and takes creepy satisfaction of plucking my leaves to use as his special trophy through the ages.
Brushing aside the fact that I seem to be fated to have REALLY SUPER AWESOME LUCK WITH MEN, I can at least say that my name is steeped in “MORBIDLY INTERESTING”.
When it came to naming my children, I decided to go with names that were plain, sturdy and way more likely to be found on a keychain than my own name.
With James, his father refused to consider any name other than “Phineus” from A Separate Peace. (Which was a GREAT book but dude, I was naming my first born that over my dead, cold body.) When I was 8-months along, he asked how I felt about “James” after one of his favorite artists, James Christensen. I agreed faster then you could blink and then promptly named the printer on our computer “Phineus” so that the name would be forever taken.
There was no question that Christopher would be named Christopher. I’ve just always loved the name.
Maybe it was Christopher Robin or Kevin Bacon totally emo crying in the waiting room waiting for his kid Christopher to be born during She’s Having a Baby (Seriously, I think I watched this scene a million times with my roomates in college. Kevin Bacon looks so vulnerably adorable crying with his spazzed out Beethoven-esque surgical cap head hair.) , but I just loved the name and it fits my gentle boy to a T.
THEIR NAMES ARE JAMES AND CHRISTOPHER.
NOT “JIMMY AND CHRIS” AS MY BROTHER, RHETT, LOVES TO CALL THEM JUST TO PISS OFF HIS LITTLE SISTER.
(ONE DAY I SHALL HAVE MY REVENGE!!! I’M NOT ENTIRELY SURE HOW TO GET NAME REVENGE ON A DUDE THAT CALLED HIS DOG “BUDDY THE AMAZING WIENER DOG”, BUT I SHALL HAVE IT, NONE-THE-LESS!)
(I SHOULD PROBABLY STOP TYPING IN ALL CAPS NOW, HUH?!!!)
Matthew, well…Matthew was the truce name between Jonathan and I. It was the only name that either of us didn’t hate. But it fit my fine, red-headed boy so well. And Matthew means “Gift of God”. Which he was. Every single moment we had him here with us.
And then we have our little pat of butter, Aaron.
Jonathan and I were NOT having an easy time with his name. We were both stubbornly deadlocked on a name and it didn’t look like it was ever going to be resolved.
But then something happened.
Jonathan and I were performing in a concert and before we sang, the symphony we were performing with played Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.
I’d never heard it live before. I was eleventyhundred months pregnant, sick and miserable, standing under hot lights with swollen feet in an itchy dress and I was transported into a place that was magical.
I don’t actually cry all that often.
Especially on stage.
It’s happened three times, actually.
Once was when I was performing at The Mormon Tabernacle with a full symphony, 2,000 singers and that gorgeous pipe organ opened up full throttle during “Come thou Fount of Every Blessing”, once was singing at the funeral of my son, and the other was when I heard this piece of music.
As I stood there, blinking back tears, I KNEW that the little one kicking in my tummy was supposed to have the name of the man who could compose such a glorious thing and see such magnificence and inspiration in his fellow man.
At the end of the day, I like knowing the meanings and stories behind things. I think it’s one reason I blog…so that all these stories and thoughts and memories are written down and recorded somewhere.
I like it.
And I like my name.
Even if I will never find it on a keychain.
So, what about you?
What’s behind the names in your life?