Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's In A Name?

"You can call me Ray.  Or you can call me Jay..."  Do you remember that commercial? ( That's a little bit of how I feel right now.

I was named after my auntie.  She was a great woman.  Her name was Dorothy.  People called her Dot.

My folks thought about what to call me - my given name or a nickname.  My dad believed that kids would call me by a nickname at some point and so my folks decided from the get-go to shorten my name.  My family called me Dottie.

Then I went to school.  There was always the dreaded first day when the teacher would do role call and call me by my name, "Dorothy."  No one called me Dorothy.  It sounded foreign to my ears.  "Dottie," I would reply quickly.  The teacher would make a note and I'd be called Dottie from then on.

My peers would pounce on my given name.  If there is a joke out there about "The Wizard of Oz" that I haven't heard, I would be surprised.  At times, my peers would also pounce on my nickname.  Dottie became "Dottie-Potty."  No need to tell you how that resonated in my soul.

Different times in my life I thought I might be able to break from the identity I associated with my childhood.  Surely adults wouldn't jump to the yellow-brick-road jokes?

When my husband and I moved with two young kiddos I grasped that time to embrace my grown up self, or at least what I perceived my grown up self to be.  The vast majority of my adult friends and people I've come in contact with call me "Dorothy."  It was lovely...for a time. Until my name worlds crashed.

When we had gatherings at our home, half the people would be calling me "Dottie" and half would be calling me "Dorothy."  Initially, the yellow-brick-road crowd would turn their heads.  "What are people calling you?" and "Why don't we call you that?"

Why, indeed.

Joining Facebook was another name clash.  Some people who knew me as "Dottie" and whom I hadn't seen in a while called me "Dorothy," which just didn't feel right.

Recently I went to a mini-reunion from my elementary school.  Everyone there was calling me "Dot" or "Dottie."   How did that feel?  Honestly, it felt wonderful.  When I drove back to our humble abode after an evening of being called "Dottie" I felt like I was coming home in more ways than one.

Since then I've found myself reflecting... Who am I?  WHO am I?  Who AM I?  Maybe I should sing it like Jean Valjean?  WHO AM I?  Maybe then I'll know?

Or maybe I should keep my singing to my own house and car?  Yes.  I think you may thank me for that.

What I can say is that since the reunion night I have felt a special fondness once again for my childhood nickname - Dottie.  Maybe now I can relate to this name in a new way realizing that who I was as a child is more in line with who I am now as an adult.  There is something about that knowledge which is very comforting and warm.  I like who I was as a child.  I like the trust and the unquestioning love and the innocence that I had.  I realize that I still look at the world through much of the same lens that I did as a little one, and I am extremely grateful for not having become jaded by life - at least not too jaded.

Who am I?  I am a combination of all these names and all they represent.  Together, they are who I am.  I am "Dor" - to a select few, and you few know who you are and I love you.  I am "Dot."  I am "Dorothy."  I am "Dottie."  I can say that last one again with joy and peace in my heart.  I am "Dottie."  I like it.  It feels like home again.