Sweetness of a name hinges on the caller
What do people call you? Not when they’re mad. What do they call you when they want to tell you who you are to them?
Readers often begin notes to me with an apology:
“I’m sorry if I seem too personal addressing you by your first name,” they say, “but I feel as if I know you personally.”
I love that. I often feel as if I know them personally, too.
As a columnist, I write about things I care about. If someone connects with that writing, I like to think it’s because they care about those things, too.
We may not know each other’s faces, but we know each other’s hearts. To me, that’s as personal as personal ever gets.
I’ve been called lots of names in my lifetime. Some of them I’ve liked better than others.
My dad always called me his “baby,” even after I had babies of my own. I liked that a lot.
In school on the playground, the boys called me “Bird Legs.” I thought it was because I could run fast. Then one of them said, no, it was because I was skinny.
“I might be skinny,” I said, “but I can outrun you.” He didn’t argue with that. In my teen years, my mother called me “Go” because I was, as she said, always on the run. It was not a term of affection.
In college, when I was elected dorm president, I found the duties were far less glamorous than the title, which wasn’t that glamorous to begin with. But I will admit I rather liked being called “Madam President.”
In my first job as a reporter, I was sometimes referred to (by editors who assigned me to write obituaries or interview people near the end of their days) as the “angel of death.”
On the newspaper’s softball team, I batted twice, got a hit and struck out. Batting .500, I chose to quit while I was ahead. Instead of batting, I
brought cookies. And 20 years later, old teammates still call me “Snacks.”
One of the names that I liked least of all turned out to be one of my favorites. From the day we met, when I was 4, my stepfather called me “Granny.”
He said I was like an old woman always worrying about other people’s business.
I didn’t care much for that name, or for him, at first. But in time, I came to love them both.
I remember the last time I saw him. We’d had a hard spell
in our family, losing to cancer, one after another, my mother, my first husband and my brother’s wife. Now my stepfather was in the final stages of lung cancer.
“Granny,” he said, as I hugged him goodbye, “you’re mighty good at taking care of people. But I want you to take care of yourself, too, you hear?”
I heard him clearly, even if I don’t always listen as I should.
What is my favorite name that I am called now? I’d say it’s a three-way tie: My kids call me “Mom” or “Mama.” My grandchildren call me “Nana.” And my husband, in a good mood, calls me “Hummingbird.”
I answer to those every time.
Then, of course, there’s this. One night when my grandson Henry was 2, I held him in my arms and pointed to the sky.
“Look, Henry,” I said, “there’s the moon. Do you see it?”
He grinned his Henry grin, pointed up to heaven and whispered, “Nana’s moon!”
For a moment, I could swear the moon was grinning, too.
Henry is older now, almost 6. We were driving one night not long ago when suddenly from the backseat he shouted, “Look, Nana! There’s your moon!” I nearly ran off the road. “I can’t believe you still call it my moon,” I said, laughing.
“Sure, Nana,” he said. “You’re the queen of the moon!”
Getting old isn’t easy. Henry and his cousins know this, and they are trying their best to keep me young. As my grandmother might say, it’s worth waking up each day just to see what those little toads will do and say next.
Call me what you will. I won’t mind at all. I am Nana, Queen of the Moon.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, Nev. 89077, or on her website: