What is in a Name?
by Jane Curtis, TX
My quiet night at home ended with an invitation to play bingo. I met 9 women named Jane. After the introductions, we all sat at the same table. We chatted about how each of them had gotten the name Jane. It is an old name in these parts and once the vote was counted, it was unanimous; all of us really like our names. We all related stories about our names. This was mine.
While I was at the orphanage, I was called Cotton-top because my hair was snow white. My little sister, however, called me Mommy. I was five and she was three when we were adopted. The big, kind man’s name was Daddy. The pretty lady’s name was sometimes Jane and sometimes Sweetheart.
The problem came when my foster mother told me she was Mommy. I immediately thought about Tricia (who I called baby) and the need to protect her. Tricia knew I was Mommy, I knew I was Mommy; I could not see how that could ever change. I cried and refused to accept it. They had named my sister Tricia. Tricia had always called me Mommy and I saw no reason to change it. Without knowing it, I was breaking my mom's heart. This went on for over a year. I answered only to the name Mommy. I called my mom Jane just like Daddy did. Tricia mimicked me and called her Jane too.
The first year had passed with me spending a lot time in my room to think about it. Our first year had presented us with many firsts. My first time to hold a salt shaker ended with salt everywhere. Our first time to see nail polish resulted in my mom’s discovery of my artistic talents all over the top of the night table, while “we” ware taking a nap. My mom was beautiful and I was growing to love her very much. She was kind and gave me lots of hugs.
We had learned about the concept of presents. I loved the idea and found myself painting sticks, drawing hearts on paper, anything to give Jane a present. I had learned to love her very much.
I had never heard about Santa Clause. When he came to see us at Christmas time I was so overwhelmed by all the things he had left, I ran from the room and screamed, “Send them all back.” Once again I had broken Jane’s heart without knowing it. I ran to my room and curled up on the bed and cried into my pillow. When Daddy came in he cradled me in his big arms. He asked why I didn’t like all the presents. I looked up at his round face and proceeded to explain. If I played with one toy before I played with another Santa would think I did not love each one as much as the other. If Daddy could just send them back to Santa and then let Santa give them to Tricia and I one at a time, it would be better. Then we could play with each one and introduce them to the others. It would be much better. Daddy seemed to understand.
In a little while all the toys were gone except one big doll. I was delighted. Tricia had gotten a doll just like mine so we introduced our new playmates to each other and played the rest of the day. Jane explained that Santa would be sending another toy each day for a while until every one of them had been introduced. Another milestone had been crossed.
We were also very excited to learn that after Christmas we were going to go see our grandmother while Daddy was off to visit with Santa. Then the day came, Daddy had gone (on a business trip) to see Santa.
We had arrived at Grandmother’s house late at night. Jane, Tricia and I were going to get to spend the night and have homemade cookies. While we were having cookies my grandmother started to take away the stuffed bear she had given Tricia that morning. I told her she could not do it. I explained that once you give someone something, it is not yours anymore and you cannot take it back. This was a rule we had learned at the orphanage.
Grandmother went on to explain she was not taking the bear back, but was going to let it take a nap with mine while we had our cookies. I agreed and let her take the bear. In a few minutes she asked my mom to join her in the bedroom. Tricia and I had cookies while they chatted in the other room. A few minutes later, Jane called me into the bedroom. She sat on the bed and gently pulled me towards her so we were facing each other eye to eye. Then she said in a very calm, loving tone, "I have a present for you."
I was very excited and started glancing all around the room for a pretty box. "This a very special present that does not come in a box. I want to give you my name. My name is Jane." she said. I looked at her for several minutes with a grin across my face. What a wonderful present. My heart was so full and I was so happy.
Then all of a sudden, I started to cry. She instantly pulled me gently into her lap and asked me what was wrong. I simply explained, if I she gave me her name she could not have it any more. What would I call her? Then she whispered, with her eyes welling up, "You could give me your name." I could tell she was holding her breath and trembling a little too. The idea brought an instant smile across my face. I was so full of joy over this idea.
This would help me give her a present too.
I said, "You can have my name and I can have yours. You are now Mommy and I am Jane." I hear her give a big sigh as she started to smile. I looked at her now very wet cheeks. I gently patted her face. “Please don’t be sad, it is a good name, I promise you will like it.” She gave me a big, big hug.
I was so excited over my present, I instantly ran to tell Tricia and Grandmother. When I ran out to tell my grandmother and Tricia, my mom followed behind me and I saw my grandmother give her a wink. We all hugged together.
Mother often talked about the anguish she and Daddy had gone through trying to make me accept her as Mommy. Grandmother had gotten the idea that it could not be done with force. She knew how much I loved my mom and how happy Tricia and I had been since the adoption had been finalized. She also told my mom there was a little rebel in me that could only be tamed with love. I remember Mommy and Grandmother hugging and my grandmother said, “Sometimes, Mommies need their Mommy.”
Many tears were shed that evening.
When my dad came through the door we were all watch TV. As he came through the door, as usual, he said, "Jane, I'm home." I jumped up and said, “That’s me.” I ran to hug him. When he scooped me up in his arms, I explained that I was Jane and that (pointing at my mom) was Mommy. He stood there, with his mouth open and his eyes had grown very big and wide. He asks, “How did we do that?” Then he started to cry and hold me even tighter. Mommy came over, putting her arms around both of us, and said “With a lot of love and a little help from my mommy.”