Friday, July 19, 2013

What's in a Name?

This is my 1000th post, something I never thought I would reach.  It's only taken ten years to get her, after all!  In honor of that, I wanted to do something a little more personal.  I hope you enjoy it.

My full name is Michael Edward Mitchell.  Some of you all already know that, as I have used it a few times here on the blog.  I've been "Eddie" derived from the "Edward" part for my whole life, however.  It's what I was meant to be called.  Never "Mike" or even "Michael."

When my mom was nearly a teenager, her youngest brother, my uncle Mike, was born.  Since both of my grandparents worked, and it was the fifties, Mom usually had to take care of him.  The story goes that she decided during these times that she would name her first boy "Michael" after him.  And so I became a namesake.

The middle name thing came along later.  Mom said that she wanted at first to name me "Michael Andrew."  The reason she didn't was because she didn't like the name "Andy."  Since there was already one Mike in the family, she didn't want to call me by that name, so she needed a workable middle name.  Rather than "Andy" she would have called me "Drew."  She eventually decided that it was going to be hard enough to get people used to using my middle name.  A less common nick name from that middle name might even be more problematic, so she scrapped the idea and went with "Edward."

She said it was just a name she liked, but we found out years later that my great-grandmother had a brother named Edward, so it's actually a family name.  If had been a girl, I would have been "Sara Dorine," two more family names--Dorine was my grandmother's name.  Mom always said that she was so sure that she was carrying a boy that she referred to me as "Eddie" just about from the moment she found out that she was pregnant.

My uncle Mike was a teenager when I was born.  We've talked a lot about how we share some of the same memories of my grandparents in ways that are different from everyone else, because we were both kids.  He was one of my first heroes when I was very young.  I loved for him to pick me up and play with me.  One of the good things that came out of my mother's passing is that we have gotten to be close again.  He lives across the river from me, and we both have booths in the same Peddlers Mall.  We get together and share stories about junk and go junking and stuff.  It's pretty cool.

As far as I was concerned, my name was "Eddie."  I never found out about this "Michael" thing until I was in first grade.  There I was sitting in the gym with my mom and all the other kids and their parents.  They were calling off names, and kids were going off with teachers.  They called this "Michael Mitchell" dude, and my mother gets up and starts walking away!  WHAT??  She finally turns to me and says:  "That's you.  Come on."  An identity crisis at 5 years old.  How cruel is that?

I had a running battle with my name for years after that.  I just wanted to be "Eddie."  But on the first day of school every year, I was "Michael."  Every time I went to the doctor, I was "Michael."  Worse yet was when people would take shortcuts and just assume they could call me "Mike" because of the "Michael" part.  That's. Not. My. Name.

My biggest problem with "Michael" was that I could not spell it correctly.  For years, I got it wrong, prompting my mother to fuss and bemoan my illiteracy.  I could do fifth grade math in the third grade, but I could not spell my own name.  Where had she failed?  It didn't help things much when I would try to point out that from my point of view, my name was "Eddie" and it would be so much simpler if everyone just got used to that.  Then I would get the story about where my name comes from.

Somewhere around the sixth grade, I figured out that if I spelled "Michael" correctly, when I looked at it backwards, the first four letters would spell "Leah."  Don't ask me how I came up with that, but it worked.

When I graduated high school and saw my name printed out on my cards, I had a revelation about how cool my name actually is.  Look at it:

Michael Edward Mitchell

It's wonderfully symmetrical.  You can draw a line right through the middle of it, and the are the same number of letters on either side.  The first and last name are derivations of each other, so the sort of mirror each other.  They have the same number of letters and start and end with the same letter.  It really is pretty cool.  It sounds awesome when it's all called out, too.

Since college, I've toyed around with using various versions of my name.  I did "M. Edward" for a while.  That's even still my official signature.  I tried "M.E." and also "Michael Edward" which I liked because it sounds really pretentious.  In fact, whenever I get business cards, I put the whole thing on there.

In every day life, I'm pretty content to be just plain ole "Eddie."  It fits.  But never "Ed."  The only two people who ever called me that are both gone now.  It's kind of reserved for their use.  I've stopped fighting the "Michael" thing and will come meekly when called.  I do, however, make every attempt to squeeze my whole middle name in when filling out forms, no matter how few spaces they give for the middle initial.  Sometimes, the broader culture needs reminding that the first name is not always the "default" name.


Roger Owen Green said...

I have written that since my father and sister were both named Leslie, some folks at church, called ME "little Les" which WAS NOT MY NAME, either.

Shara said...

You do have a very regal looking full name. When I was little everyone called me by my first and middle name - Shara Lee. Even now at family reunions, I hear SHARA LEE and a chill goes down my spine.

(Andy is one of my very favorite names in the world!)