What’s In A Name?

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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

 

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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.)

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

 

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“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
~W. C. Fields~

 

The Present

I have always loved to read, and when I was a little girl, my favorite book, (you might be familiar with it) was Ramona the Pest. I think it’s probably because I could really relate to the star of the book, Miss Ramona Quimby. Nothing ever seemed to turn out right for Ramona, but her predicaments were simply part of her charm, and served to make her even more feisty and determined. (I’ve always liked a strong female lead, or was that strong-willed? Oh well, potato/potato.)

imageOne of my favorite scenes, is Ramona’s first day of kindergarten. Ramona, tummy full of butterflies, is directed by Miss Binney, the teacher, to a desk, and is told to “Sit here for the present.” So, Ramona sits. But Ramona has a busy mind, and her thoughts churn and churn,” What kind of present could it be?” (Oh, no! Back in the day, even my 7 year-old mind knew what was coming!) As the day wears on and no gift appears, the disillusioned Ramona questions the teacher.  Kindly, the teacher explains the misunderstanding, and offers up an alternate definition of present. Ramona leaves her first day no older-but wiser.

imageIn my last blog post, (Picture a Christmas) I talk about anticipation as looking forward to. Ramona spent her entire first day of kindergarten anticipating the present, and in so doing, she missed all the other memorable aspects of her very-first-ever day of school! With that in mind, I want to share a recent experience I had that really brought home yet another definition of present, and that is being present.
Last week, across my Facebook feed in classic movie “Star Wars” scroll, Marie Osmond announced a contest.  The prize was two tickets to a private screening of the latest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens. I’m not a Star Wars fan per se, (gasp!) but I am a Marie Osmond fan. (There’s that strong leading lady-thing rearing its head again.) So I did what any middle-aged, non-Star Wars fan would do. I grabbed my daughter, made her teach me how to Instagram, (arghh…read my even older post, Old Dog, New Trick,) took a crash course in hash tags, (or the pound sign as I still call it), mocked up a picture with caption, and posted away.

"Lone Star" Wars
  “Lonestar Wars”

And so it was, that I, at 53 became hip. Entered D & M’s contest, instagrammed it, hashtagged it, and won two tickets, so apparently-nailed it! (Either that, or the fact that it was one hour away, in Gainesville, TX, population-not-too-many was a factor-but I digress…)

I never win anything, and boy was I excited-what a gift for the holidays! I got a good dose of anticipation myself…picking out a slimming outfit, so I wouldn’t look like a middle-aged whale next to Marie; who, thanks to Nutrisystem and Body Gym is lookin’ mighty fine, I must say. I knew there was no time for fillers or Botox, so I prayed over my Oil of Olay, “regenerized” my face, and threw in my turkey neck just to be on the safe side. I wanded my unruly hair, and all in all, after spending more time primping then I did on my wedding day, I looked fairly presentable. At the premiere, we were queued up, and the excitement was palpable.

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Nervous chatter all ’round. Most of the over-fifty gals were there for Donny, eyes glazed, swapping stories and harking back to their glory days. Me, not-so-much. I am a die-hard Marie fan, not one of those crazy groupies! (Did I tell you my wedding announcements were the same as Marie’s? ’cause they were…) OK…maybe I am a bit star-struck, but I can play it cool with the best of them. (Because I’m a little bit country, and a little bit rock-n-roll-yeah, I went there…)

Finally, a tour bus pulled in and the entourage of band members, crew, and dancers arrived. Then it was time. The glass theater doors swung open, and in walked Donny and Marie, amid whoops and cheers. Donny was as expected, but Marie is very small in person, and just a doll. Everyone had their cameras at the ready, snapping away and videoing as they passed directly by. I am technically-challenged, (snicker), so I made my daughter do the paparazzi work.

The small crowd eagerly pressed forward into the theater the minute it was open. My daughter and I split up, me to get us seats, and she to get our popcorn and drinks, also gratis. (Thank you Donny & Marie!) What we didn’t know then, was that Donny & Marie had stepped behind the concession counter to “serve” the theater goers.

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Most of the folks had rushed and grabbed their popcorn buckets and drinks prior to their arrival-anticipating the crush to see celebrity in person, and were already ensconced in their seats. They were unaware that those that had waited, were up close and personal with D & M, as they chatted and served up popcorn, soda, and Icees. My daughter felt bad for me, knowing I was missing it. She stood back from the fray and took a couple of discreet pictures and brief videos to share with me.

She shared that although she was excited to meet them, she didn’t want to invade their personal space. This was their Christmas gift to their staff and they had generously included their fans in the contest-but this was their preview as much as it was ours, and their free time as well. We felt like creepy stalkers, and we put our phones away for the night. D & M went on to graciously answer questions and joked around for about ten minutes. They were charming, down to earth, and open.

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Cherry-on-top, they gave away tickets to their upcoming Christmas show, and we were lucky again. (Marie, my new BFF, chose me! Donny asked my name for the will-call window and suddenly, “white and nerdy” was all cool celebrity, and I choked like Cindy Brady looking at the red blinking camera light! It took a few elbow-to-the-rib jabs from my daughter, before I could squeak out Williamson.)
As for Star Wars, even I enjoyed the movie! The 3D special effects were amazing, and the good vs. evil-believe me, I get. As we flowed out of the theater as a group, cameras were poised even at the restroom door for Marie to come out! Marie’s adorable daughter was there on holiday break with her, and we couldn’t help but contrast our mother/daughter night out with theirs. How hard it must be to live as a celebrity. How vulnerable you must feel, with strangers clamoring after you, and taking pictures left and right. No safe zone, no anonymity. We actually felt fortunate to NOT be talented and famous. (Yup, we’re lucky that way!) And here they were, more outgoing and fun than you can ever imagine, spending their night with us, and making sure everyone was having a good time. It was a gift indeed. Which brings me to the present.

We had a wonderful time that night, but I couldn’t help but notice that we weren’t all present. As fans, we were so consumed with getting the picture, that we didn’t get the picture. Videoing is not the same as seeing Donny, Marie, and her sweet daughter Abi in person. Snapping away is not listening, interacting, or experiencing. Eyes glued to a screen, we are virtualizing the real thing! In our quest to make a memory, we are missing it as it’s being made. I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I had my daughter take the video, but I would have done it if I were technically savvy. If I didn’t hate selfies so much, I would have selfied! Luckily, since I need readers, can’t work my phone properly, and everything I snap turns out blurry, I got to enjoy seeing, being, and experiencing-by default. (And, because I have a wise daughter.) Like Ramona, I learned a lesson that day that left me wiser.  Be aware in the moment, and savor it. The experience IS the gift!

concert signTwo days later we went to D & M’s Christmas show, and it was a sparkly, dazzling, holiday extravaganza. Although it was taboo, folks filmed and snapped away the entire time. And as for us?  We didn’t take one picture or video that night to remember it by. But we will treasure our memories. They were awesome seats, and we were just grateful to be present.

 

 

 

If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now. 

~Marie Osmond