I’ve had a difficult relationship with my names in my life. Growing up as a boy, my last name was not viewed as terribly masculine. One teacher in my high school, returning a corrected history quiz (0/5) early in my junior year, gruffly said, “Flowerday, eh? After this grade your name should be Mayday.”
The resulting laughter from my classmates was a strong motivator, as I was determined enough to score 84/85 for the rest of the quarter. Mayday indeed.
My German teacher liked my name, and when we had to adopt German names for class, Blumentag sounded a lot better to me than the English rendition. But then again, German is such a delicious language. Everything sounds macho auf Deutsch, even flowers.
The story of my given name is part of family lore. My parents were unable to conceive for almost thirteen years after they were married in 1945. My mother’s doctor was a close friend and while the details of the medical condition/treatment were never shared with me, my parents held Dr Todd in very high regard–eventually I came along, plus a sister and brother to follow. I never knew the man, as he tragically died in a traffic accident around my first birthday. I sometimes wished I had a different, more mainstream name, but that wish has faded as I’ve grown older. I’ve grown accustomed.
When I was being instructed for baptism, Father McCarthy suggested I needed a saint’s name. He suggested Thomas, as it was close to my own legal name. I don’t know how it came to me, but in some kind of a Zechariah moment I counteroffered “Joseph.” And so I had a baptismal patron.
Years later a friend preached on the two Josephs at a daily Mass–the husband of Mary and also the patriarch of the book of Genesis. She spoke of them both being dreamers, and I immediately attached myself to the notion of “Joseph the Dreamer.” As I’ve explored that through the years, I’ve tried to come to terms with both the good (a devoted obedience to God and care for a spouse and child) as well as the not-so-good (an arrogance that sets teeth to clench and nearly justifies dropping an obnoxious soul into a well).
The young miss seems not to care too much for her name, as she occasionally changes it depending on her environment. At the library where she volunteers, she is identified as “Brie.” Last year at camp, it was “B.T.,” and when she introduced herself to the new pastor last summer, it was as “Taylor.” I don’t always understand females, especially the young adolescent brand of them. But I understand a certain reticence to a name. I understand that very well.
How about you readers? Have you a good or troubled relationship with your given names or even the saints associated with them? Do you wish you had a different one? Have you changed your name ever?