Recently, we were blessed with a brand new little family member. As we planned and prepared for her joyful arrival, we wondered what her name would be. Actually, I did more than wonder. I may or may not have suggested, encouraged, coaxed, and cajoled. Possibly even annoyed. But thankfully her folks were patient with the onslaught of names, definitions, vetoes, and spellings, as “we” searched for the perfect name for this little person. And what a perfect little person she is.
Names are important. Names are how we are known throughout our lifetime, so it’s a given that a lot of thought needs to go into them. We even nickname our inanimate objects. Starting in childhood, our toys (who are also our first friends), have special monikers. A favorite toy of mine as a kiddo was a seersucker donkey I received in the hospital named Starry. Starry came off a candy striper cart and perpetually smelled like spearmint gum. Starry was the first good thing that happened to me in that hospital, and still holds a special place in my heart.
Later, as a mother, I loved the names my kids gave their special toy-friends. Sometimes they kept the names the toys came with. Like my daughter and her stuffed Dalmatians. She had 101, but Whizzer and Penny were her favorites. My other daughter named her favorite Cabbage Patch doll Marcia. Upon inquiring how she settled upon that particular name, she proudly pronounced she was naming her after Marcia Brady. (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) She also had an imaginary friend she named Mrs. Pennypacker, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Even my storybook friends have names for their pretend besties. Ramona, from the Beverly Cleary books, took her beloved doll Chevrolet (named after her Aunt’s car), to show and tell. Flavia de Luce, the girl sleuth of Alan Bradley books, has a bicycle named Gladys whom she confides in and treats as a treasured friend.
We don’t outgrow naming our stuff either. (At least I didn’t). I named my first car, a silver-blue Honda, Henry. I’ve also had cars Goldie, Bugsy, and Jeepy-(I know, losing my touch a little bit.) We name our pets. You may remember Gilligan, Skipper, Ginger, etc.-not from TV fame-but as my childhood pets from my earlier post Gimme Shelter. Names have meaning and power. Some names are so powerful in fact, just hearing them conjures up a picture in our minds. Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Starbucks, The Cheesecake Factory…(mmmm, cheesecake…but I digress.)
I nearly had a name that painted a picture too…only it wasn’t a very flattering one. It all started in the 60’s. (Didn’t everything?)
My sister’s middle name is Noël, and I’ve always felt like a second fiddle because she got such a cool name associated with having a Christmastime birthday. BONUS: her first name is a family name shared by both my grandmother and mother. So who was I?
I just had to ask…
Turns out my dad wanted me to be Pam, Kathy or Julie. All good, sensible girl names and popular at the time. My mother, however, was besotted with Bambi-Lynn. Lordy! Can you imagine? A stripper name! (See what I mean about names that paint a picture?) Obviously my mother’s favorite childhood movie was the culprit-but seriously? What kind of future could I have with a name like that? (Rhetorical-please don’t even answer that one in your head!)
Since they couldn’t agree, I dodged a major bullet and became Kimberley Ann. Ann is the go-to middle name that all Kimberly’s get-based on every Kimberly I’ve ever met. Kimberley’s an ok name–better than Bambi by a long shot. I rather liked being a Kimberley. In fact, until we moved to Idaho, I was the only one I knew. Sadly, when we moved my new teacher told me I couldn’t be a Kimberley any more. They already had a Kimberly, thank you-and from now on I was going to have to be a Kim. I didn’t want to be a Kim, but I didn’t have the courage to speak up to a teacher at an unfamiliar school. At home I was a Kimmie, but that’s way too baby-ish when you’re in 2nd grade, so I sucked it up and forever after was a Kim. What a gyp!
Voldemort, (of Harry Potter fame) lucked out in the name department. No 2nd grade teacher would dare shame him with “We have two Voldemorts, so you’re going to have to change it up.” He simply became “He who must not be named.” He wasn’t around then-or I would have been tempted to try it out. “She who must not be named” has a bad-to-the-bone connotation. Unfortunately, with my naturally curly hair and ADHD attention span, I couldn’t have pulled it off.
The bizarre thing was, I actually had the wrong end of the stick when it came to my own name. I thought I was special and that I was getting away with something because I had a secret. I had two middle names. Yup-count ’em, two! But in typical Kim-fashion I was confused and sadly soon outed by the neighbor girl, who unintentionally burst my bubble. She was older and a particular hero of mine, so the fact she would give me the time of day dazzled me.
One day in an effort to really impress her, I casually asked her what her “proper” name was, so she would know how grown-up I really was. She told me, and then responded with the reciprocal, “What’s your proper name?” thus giving me a chance to spill the beans about my fancy name. “Kimberley Ann Witt,” I told her, proudly. She seemed unimpressed, so I had to crank it up a notch.
” I have two middle names.”
“Oh really? What’s the other one?” she asked.
“The other what?” (me)
“The other middle name?” (her)
Maybe she’d misheard me, so I laid it on her again-this time with emphasis:
“Kim Berley Ann Witt.”
She stared. Then she started laughing. I was confused.
“What’s your middle name again?” (her)
So I said it slower…”Berley-Ann…I have two.”
She laughed even harder and grabbed my sister,
“Do you know what your sister just told me her middle name was?”…still laughing…
“Berley-Ann… She thinks her middle name is Berley-Ann!”
Well that totally cracked up my sister, who promptly went in and told my mom…who didn’t crack-up…at least not with laughter. She cracked up all right, but with temper. She marched outside, grabbed me by the arm, and wrestled me into the house with a lecture. How was I supposed to know Berley-Ann could not be my middle name? After all, every single time my mom was cross with me-which was frequently-she would yell out, “Kim-Ber-ley-Ann, etc., etc….So it was technically her fault. But she didn’t see it my way. After my attitude adjustment, I was never confused about my name again.
Oddly enough, I had been confused about my name before. Once when my name was in cursive on an Easter egg, (see earlier post, Basket Case), I was confused and ate my sisters chocolate egg too, just for good measure. And I have always called the chocolate Hostess cupcakes with the squiggles, “cupcakes with my name on them,” because I was under the mistaken impression the squiggles spelled out my name in cursive. You can bet after the Easter egg debacle I selected my name cupcake very carefully. (Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Those are still my favorite cupcakes though.)
You may have noticed besides the two middle names fiasco, my maiden name was Witt. So when my teacher wouldn’t let me be a Kimberley, by default I became Kim Witt. Which led to multiple jokes about nit-dim-and half (wits). Kids are jerks. One charmer even nicknamed me Kim Witt dip sh*t! What’s in a name indeed! To top it all off, unfortunately my brother two years younger than me is named Jim. Jim and Kim. Jim Witt and Kim Witt. Yikes! And my dad is also named Jim. To this day if someone calls the house my mom will say “Do you want big Jim or little Jim?” And my brother hasn’t lived home in thirty plus years. Awkward.
I can see why some folks go by just one name. Like Cher. No faux pas like “Berley-Ann” when you’re a one-name wonder. And no unfortunate last names that kids can mock either.
Although I wasn’t exactly thrilled in the name department, hope was on the horizon! I lived for the day I could change my last name through the gift of marriage. Because on top of being cursed with a rhyming name, I was a W. Those of you with names at the end of the alphabet know what I’m talking about. Whenever there’s assigned seating the W’s are at the back of the class. When they hand out report cards, yearbooks, schedules-yup, always at the end. By the time you graduate, nobody’s cheering anymore. Being at the end of the alphabet is no fun. Imagine my surprise when I married a W-(as did my sister). Curses, foiled again!
So in the name game of life, would that which we call a rose, by any other name really smell as sweet, as Shakespeare claimed? (Well-his name IS Shakespeare-that’s terrifying in and of itself…) But…I’m guessing it would. Unless that rose was called Bambi Lynn, in which case life’s path is certainly gonna be thorny.
“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
~W. C. Fields~