What’s in a (middle) name?

Published 1:09 am Saturday, October 26, 2013

I was snoozing in my recliner in mid-afternoon when the telephone rang. I stirred, feeling for the portable telephone that should have been on the end table beside me. It wasn’t. Squinting, I saw it in its proper slot on a table several feet across the living room. I jumped up to catch it before its final ring. I made it just in time, recognizing a familiar Florida number. Still groggy from my delightful nap, I tried to fake a wide-awake hello.

“Hi, it’s cousin Mary,” my first cousin’s wife said. “How are you?”

By that time, I was returning to myself. “Just fine. What about you and Charlie?” We exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes. “I called to see if Wednesday would be a good day for us to visit you. If so, we’ll see you about 10:30 Wednesday morning.”

I am always delighted when Mary informs me of one of their brief, forthcoming visits. It gives us time to chat, catch up on family news, enjoy a meal at the restaurant they choose, and spend a few more hours together before they return home to Panama City.

Charlie’s mother was my mother’s younger sister. They loved each other dearly, so our families always kept in close touch. This past Wednesday, our conversation centered on that beautiful relationship. It is amazing how we go through life some time taking for granted that people know certain things, just to discover they don’t. Charlie mentioned that he believed his mother lived with my parents for a while. “Of course, she did,” I said. “She was staying with them attending school when I was born.”

As our conversation continued, he surprised me with a question: “Were you named for my mother?” It struck me almost speechless. I couldn’t believe that he had lived his life without knowing that for sure. “I certainly was.” I declared. “And let me tell you something else. My mother, your mother, and my daddy were trying to decide on my name with my mother designated as the one who would make the final decision. They all agreed on my first name, when one of them added your mother’s name, Pearl. Daddy and your mother declared right then and there it was exactly right. It fit. From the way I heard the story, once your mother’s name popped up, they didn’t give my mother a chance to even suggest anything else.”

Although she was my Aunt Pearl, when I attempted to say “Aunt Pearl,” it came out “Aunt Paddy.” She became my beloved Aunt Paddy whom I loved so much I begged to go live with her when I got mad at my mother. Even into adulthood, I only allowed my children, my husband and a favorite cousin (from the other side of the family) to use my special name for my dear aunt.

Charlie said several relatives are named for her today. Now he knows for sure that I was honored to be the first.