What’s Your Name, Little Girl? What’s Your Name?

by gillis

My mother just called. She wanted to know if I had a middle initial. This is not the first time she has asked me this question, nor is it the second, and I doubt it will be the last. One might wonder why a mother would have trouble recalling her child’s name, unless of course the mother had Alzheimer’s disease. My mother does not have Alzheimer’s disease, although she is in her 80s and does have some short term memory recall issues. She makes lists and still, she forgets some things, repeats some stories. One thing I can say is that I am not a short term memory in my mother’s databank of memories. She’s known me for nearly five decades.

This is actually a yearly conversation we have. The Boston Globe publishes a list of people who have money to be claimed from the IRS. Each year when this list comes out, someone with a variation of my name is on the list, and my mother wonders if it is me. She knows that I don’t get the Globe, so she checks with me hoping that I am due to receive several thousand dollars in refunds that I somehow overlooked. That would be lovely. Years ago I also thought it would be lovely if she remembered what she had named me, but now I just smile when this day comes around.

I am one of seven sisters. By the time my parents had me, #6, they had effectively run out of girls’ names in their repertoire. We were all supposed to be named Kenneth Michael. When that didn’t work out, they were stumped. Repeatedly. Much as I love my parents, creativity and imagination were not strong suits for either of them. These are people who not only thought inside the box, they wallpapered their box with the safest, blandest wallpaper ever designed. I’ve been told that it took them many days to name me. There was an argument about naming me for a relative that they both liked, but they didn’t both like her name. Since it was the golden age of medical obstetrics, when women were knocked out to give birth and stayed in the hospital for a week with their baby, they could take their time coming up with a name.

For a chunk of years during my childhood and adolescence, I didn’t like my name and wanted something, anything, more interesting. I played with different spellings and nicknames on a weekly basis. Other than that brief period, I have loved my name. My name fits me, it’s not flashy, it’s fairly straightforward and it’s strong enough to live under and up to. I’m grateful that my parents gave me this name, even if the remaining parent cannot always remember it.