Friday, June 17, 2011
What’s Your Name?
Valley Jane Cecelia Yane (Yanpolski) Smith Haggard
1- A baby conceived in the Shenandoah Valley in a tent on her mother’s birthday
2- A name signifying every woman. Jane Doe. Plain Jane.
3- Maternal great grandmother.
4- Mother’s maiden name before and after her father changed it during the Red Scare.
5- Father’s mountain people
6- The name her bridesmaids convinced her to take the night before the wedding
Valley of Death
Back Alley Valley
Valley of the Dolls
Valley Dale Sausage/Valley Dale Weiners
The only other Valley—spelled the same way---- that I’ve heard of living in this town was an African girl working at Hooters.
When I was a little white Jewish girl at an all black elementary school in the east end of Richmond there was one teacher who made me feel completely happy and safe and loved--- my SPACE teacher, John Hunter. He wore a green and yellow crotchet knit cap over his big afro and twirled the fuzz of his beard between his fingers while telling us stories about kids hunting rainbows. He staged a naming ceremony for us in the basement of the school that also served as a gymnasium, a cafeteria and was, we all believed, haunted by the ghost of a dead slave girl. The name he gave me was: Laughing Rainbow. John Hunter has gone on to change the world, give TED talks and inspire kids and teachers all over the country. I understand why. The name he gave me is the one I think of as my real underneath the surface of everything true name to this day.
During the first hour of the first day of most of the creative writing camps I teach I ask the children to write the story of their name. Then, I ask them to create an alter ego or super hero for themselves, writing each name on one side of a folded piece of card stock. The name they turn to face out that day is the name you have to call them.
We didn’t settle on my son’s name until we were checking out of the hospital and his birth certificate was due. I had so many names for him in my mind, having to choose one seemed impossible, limiting. Cosmo, Sterling, Elijah, Jackson, Raymond, Henry. In the end we went with the last, the name of the paternal grandfather who had died the year before, the only grandparent our baby would never get to meet. Although you can’t step into a play area or a library or a school without hearing “HENRY!” from any of the four directions (turns out lots of other grandfather’s were named Henry, too) I’m glad our son carries part of his dad’s dad into his life every single day.
What does your name mean to you?
Posted by Valley Haggard at 9:24 AM