There’s been a bit of buzz this week about Internet anonymity, baby names, namer’s remorse and pseudonyms. It all reminds me of my favourite story about my grandmother. It’s a story that I asked to hear about several times when I was young, and one that even her closest friends (and even some younger family members) had not heard until I retold it at her funeral.
My grandmother was born in England in 1915 and given the name Minnie. At the age of 6, she moved to Canada with her family including her older sister. She started school mid-term and immediately felt overwhelmed by all the changes. She was a small, shy child with a very strong British accent. The other kids teased her for her accent and taunted her relentlessly about her name. She was known as Mini Minnie.
Her sister, who was six years older, was pretty and feisty and seemed to adapt to the situation effortlessly. She joined clubs and teams and was extremely popular. My grandmother usually just tagged along with her and her friends.
My grandmother grew to despise her name. She would avoid introducing herself and fantasized about names she wished she had.
When she was 18 years old, she followed her newly-married sister to a small mining town in northern Ontario that was experiencing a gold rush. She had no plans, no work lined up, but felt the need for a fresh start in a new place with her best friend, her sister.
She decided on the train-ride to her new home that Minnie was no more. From that moment on, she would confidently introduce herself as “Jill”. She found herself in this mining town and became actively involved in the community and the church. At 21 she was married and, while she was in the process of changing to her married name, legally changed her first name to “Jillian” .
I think of this story so often and I wonder about how difficult it must have been to tell her parents and her old friends. How bold it was to make that choice in the 1930’s.
I too fantasize about changing my name. Lori, to me, screams 1970’s and I wish I had a more timeless, classic name like Kate or Jill. I’m not about to change it, mostly because my parents still love the name and I would never do anything to hurt or insult them. But still, a girl can dream.
Do you like your own name? Do you think it suits you? What would be a better name for you?