What’s in a Name?

After the funeral service, we got to talking about names.  Uncle Harley told us about his mother’s.  One day his grandfather was standing on a bridge in Rochester, watching boats and ships go by, and a vessel came out on his side.

Printed in large letters along its side was Firmina.

I had wondered about this name given to a baby from the Toole side of the family. Firmina has Latin roots and means firm, steadfast. As it turned out, no one used her name; she went by Dot.

Her sisters were named Gladys, Viola, Lucille and they are throwbacks to an era, but I’m not sure how popular Viola was even then.  Maybe the idea came from the family’s love of music.

At the memorial service, Mary talked about names. She was born on Christmas Eve and given her name Mary Carol. As a child she thought everyone’s name ended with an “eee” sound like Mommy and Daddy and her own name Mary.  So Beth was Bethy to her.  And she always will be.  Mary named her daughter Julia Beth after her sister.

Here’s the rub:  they did not call her Julia, they called her Julie. Jul-eee.  The whole family calls her that, except for Beth who called her Julie Beth.

After the service, a guest introduced himself to her and said, “So you must be Julie Bethy.”

That evening, ten of us sat in a circle, enjoying various levels of drink, discussing names, true names of people we knew or met.  Julie mentioned a guy she knew in school, Justin Drinkwater, which is not so notable until she told us his middle name is Case.

Justin Case Drinkwater.

Going through old albums, Julie’s mom pointed to a picture of Harry’s wife who was a family friend. She hadn’t given his name much thought.   Then Julie said, “Mom, his name is Ball. Harry Ball.”

It regressed from there.

And the laughter was the deep-in-the-gut kind with tears.  We needed it.

Harley told me about the time he took my eight year old daughter for a “not too fast” ride on his motorcycle.  She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her helmet against his back, then said a name over and over.

“Angelina Ballerina.  Angelina Ballerina. Angelina Ballerina.”

 

 Angelina Ballerina by Holabird & Craig  — Book Link

And I don’t need to tell you the make of motorcycle Harley rides.  As I looked around the circle of family in the evening glow, I noticed the emblem on my brother’s white shirt.

Harley Davidson.

About mylinhshattan

MyLinh B. Shattan is a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.