Sweet­ness of a name hinges on the caller

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE -

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:

sharon­ran­dall.com

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