Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
So this morning, waiting in a room for Jean's neurologist, Jean says:
I have thought of something else I could have named you.
The last time Jean suggested that she could have named me something other than after herself & my father, she told me could have named me Veronica.
At the time, I asked Jean where she got Veronica & she said she did not know.
But it is a very pretty name.
The thought of being named after a character in an Archie comic book series did not please me.
I was wary of finding out what other name I might have been called these last six decades. But we were wedged in the room, the stretcher faced toward the doctor’s entrance & I could not sit behind Jean & work a crossword without interacting.
Because I have already gone through the November 3rd issue of People magazine with her, I asked her what else she could have named me except for Veronica or after my father & herself.
I could have named you Minnie Jo.
I think of Minnie Driver & Minnie Mouse & then I tell her that no one in their right mind names anything but a puppy or a doll or a cartoon character Minnie Jo.
Actually I was quite fond of Minnie Jo.
And I wonder who was this Minnie Jo who might have been the inspiration for my name & why Jean was quite fond of her. So I ask & Jean tells me a story.
Minnie Jo was the product of a marriage between my Aunt Flora’s husband’s brother, Tule (Jean spells out T – U – L – E) & a woman I think was named Bessie.
I verify Jean’s Aunt Flora as her mother Luna’s sister.
Minnie Jo was very tall, with light brown hair & nice, dark skin. I seem to remember she had blue eyes. She started dating Billy John Burns. I liked him first. I wasn’t happy about that.
The last I heard, they were still happily married.
Minnie Jo used to send me cards from time to time & and she would congratulate me on whatever was happening.
I once wrote back to her: I hope you only have enough clouds in your life to create a beautiful sunset.
I am sure I read that somewhere.
Every time I have one of these conversations with Jean, I marvel at what I don’t know about her. And I marvel at how much of who I am is embedded in what she has given me.
And, not for the first time I realize, from whom I first learned to be a story teller.
There is a reason I am not named Minnie Jo or Veronica. I am very much Jack & Jean’s daughter & my name, as my cousin Vicki Willimon Barkley once pointed out, suits me.
I think of a poem by Vassar Miller, a Houston poet I was privileged to meet. I cannot find the small book containing the poem – but it had to do with naming. That we name what we love, we love what we name.
Naming is an enormous power – given to Adam by God, it granted Adam dominion over all that was created after him. The names we give our children define them, dictate the course of their growing into their own identities.
Veronica is a very pretty name. It still invokes only two memories – the Archie comic book figure & a flash of the actress Veronica Hammel wearing Furillo’s shirt during a bedroom scene in the TV drama Hill Street Blues. Minnie Jo still invokes images of Minnie Mouse.
Jean did tell me that at some point Minnie Jo dropped the Minnie & signed her cards & letters Jo.
I told Jean that I was quite content being named after my parents. Even it is does sound like a character in a Faulkner novel, if Faulkner had written about a fictional town in East Texas instead of a fictional town in Mississippi.
There are worse things than sounding a bit like a Faulkner character.
After all, Jack & Jean named what they loved & continued to love what they named.
I really need to find that Vassar Miller poem.