Various cultures (far more intelligent than mine) wait until a baby is grown (and able to put their two-cents in) to pick a suitable permanent name. But knowing my luck, I’d be saddled with a moniker like Skinny-know-it-all or She-who-must-be-avoided.
How was I supposed to attract a boy when I was saddled with a plain old name like Mary Barbara? My stupendous personality required a unique name, like Aurora (Sleeping Beauty’s real name), Rapunzel, or Cleopatra. If I was an Indian maiden I could be Princess (of course I’d be a princess) Rising Star.
An episode of Gunsmoke featured the most magnificent saloon girl I’d ever seen. She could sing and dance, just like me. And she had great taste in clothing.Television shows were black and white, but I just knew her ruffle-covered saloon dress was red and black. And when she danced and showed a peak at her bloomers, they didn’t have any splotches of pine-pitch stuck on them.
Abigail couldn’t make a repeat performance, because the dumb writers tragically killed her off during the last few minutes of her only episode. Maybe Miss Kitty didn’t like all the attention thrown Abigail’s way and threatened to quit unless Abby got the ax. I did notice Marshal Dillon giving Abigail the eye a few times.
“I’m going to be a saloon girl when I grow up,” I announced. “And I’m going to wear lots of fancy feathers in my hair.”
Mom nodded, muttering “Good gravy” under her breath.
Dad asked, “Does this mean I’ll get free beer?”
I ignored his question, since he never drank, and asked one of my own. “Why didn’t you guys name me Abigail?”
“I guess I didn’t think of it,” said Mom.
“You mean you really never thought about a great name like Abigail? It never crossed your mind at all?”
“Not even for a minute,” she answered.
Mom was pregnant with a new brother or sister for David and me. Obviously, I wanted a girl, and David wanted a boy. I instructed Mom that if the baby was a girl to name her Abigail or Matina, my favorite doll’s name that I personally made up. I didn’t care what Mom named a baby brother.
David and I spent a few nights at various aunts’ homes while Mom was in the hospital. While at Aunt Ann and Uncle Mike’s, I got scared at night and wouldn’t settle down until they let me crawl into bed with them. This was definitely Aunt Ann’s idea, because I heard Uncle Mike grumbling about my unexpected presence.
I returned home to meet my new baby sister, Susan Marie. Mom apologized for forgetting about Abigail or Matina, and I forgave her when I learned her alternate name had been Sally. It took years to get over the fact that the only two names Mom came up with were Susan and Sally.
And Susan’s middle name, Marie, was almost the same as my first name.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at Mom’s inability to pick creative names. Most of my first cousins, including me, had Mary, Barbara, Ann, or Nancy in our names, causing our double-name usage: Mary Barbara (me), Mary Ellen (also known as Deedee), Susan Marie, Barbara Kay, Barbara Ann, Janet Ann, Karen Ann, Ann Shirley, older Nancy, and younger Nancy. We often wondered what our mothers (five sisters) were thinking when they named us.
Dad’s side of the family wasn’t in the clear either. Dad’s father, brother, and only nephew were all Edward Norton, like Art Carney in The Honeymooners. My father is Frederick, which made Ed, Ed, Ed, and Fred.
Side note: As a junior in college I met and briefly dated Jamie, Art Carney’s son. He wanted me to leave college and travel with him to his coffeehouse performances. I was tempted for a moment, partly because of the Ed Norton connection, and partly because he was so darn cute. But I knew my parent’s would kill me.
My two sisters and I provided our children with names unique from those of their first cousins. However, my two daughters are not Abigail and Matina. And I never became a saloon girl, but I often wore fancy feathers in my hair, and they looked good.
Lessons learned: A great name is in the ear of the beholder. And there’s nothing wrong with displaying a few feathers.
Related posts: Boy Crazy/Impressing Boys
Now it’s your turn: As a child, how happy were you with your name?
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