When I was a young girl, I named things that most others I knew didn’t, things like favorite trees and sitting rocks, our family car. I spent a lot of time in the choosing of the names, believing as I do now, that a name is incredibly important and has the power to shape how someone or something is viewed. It was a shame that I wasn’t too fond of my given one. Patricia. Or Flatty Patty as one horrible little boy on our elementary bus liked to chime way before I even knew what he meant. Then, as if I needed a solid reason for disliking my moniker, there came into our classroom an article printed in our local paper about baby names and in it there was a heading halfway down the page with the title of something like “ten worst girl names in the history of all time.” Guess what? Patricia was on the list. I remember being completely mortified. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time. My classmates had a field day with that as you can imagine. Eventually I made the switch to Tricia, only I wasn’t so crazy about that either.
I started a name journal. It was a sort of wish list for myself (I tended to gravitate to names like Camilla and Clare) and then when Olivia was born and I began to dabble in writing and painting, the name journal became an excellent resource. I should also mention that she called me Mimi before she could say Mommy and that name stuck and around the house I am Mimi and I love it. It fits. Sometimes I am called just Tee and I like that too. In the last few years, I’ve even begun to finally feel a strong connection to Tricia and even Patricia, though if asked why the change, I couldn’t say.
I still collect names. Graveyards are especially good for this. And they are good, quiet places to walk and think. Last week I walked a hill inSalem, Virgina. The sky was grey and the air, chilly; the stones were weathered and round and mossy. Perfect inspiration for a nice Gothic novel.
Mary Kyle. Theodore Hale. Can’t you imagine what they must have looked like, what adventures or drudgery they experienced? It’s a fun creativity starter. Names really get my imagination going and sometimes a story comes straight away. I’ve put my novel away for a bit (a very short bit—two weeks perhaps) and am working on a short story. The main character is Chanterelle. The story didn’t come until after the name. With the novel, the main character’s name has gone through three changes, hopefully with this last to stick around.
I met several people on the cemetery paths that day, one with a notebook in his hands. He was quickly jotting things down, names perhaps? I wanted to ask but didn’t; I just gave a nod to Fred, Bill, or Evan, maybe Wayne, and walked on.