Yesterday I attended the Kingsmead annual book fair, obviously I like book fairs! They are always very shrewd, fun as a family outing too. With all the different activities in the children’s area one never has to worry about kids being bored – loads of entertainment.
While we were in one of the sessions(Open line) around Q&A time one lady stood up to ask a question, it’s not the question she asked that got me to write this but what she said before asking the question.
“Hi everyone my name is Ruth, yes I don’t have an African name I wish I had one…”
It was that line that triggered something in me; it reminded me of a lot of things
- A conversation I had with a friend who had recently changed her name
- When a child is expected, the names that are debated prior to deciding on the particular one.
- The importance of name, the thing that you are called by everyday
- The carelessness that sometimes go into the whole name thing and so and so forth, a lot of things.
I was getting off the Gautrain when I saw a friend whom I hadn’t seen in three years. Out of excitement I was almost running when approaching her then I said ‘’Hey Pam, long time oh my God how have you been?”We chatted away updating each other on the family events, friends, kids etc before we parted ways. Lovely catch up we agreed to arrange a kiddie’s play date soon.
Two days later I received a text from my friend:
‘You know you are the only who still calls me Pam, I am no longer Pam I changed that name last year I now go by the name of Happiness’.
‘You mean you have another nickname now? Okay I get it; its fine please just bare with me it’s going to take a while for me to get used to calling you Happiness.’ I said. To which she responded
‘No girl, it’s not a nickname it’s my new name, matter of fact it’s not new, the name was given to me at birth but it never made it to my birth certificate but I decided to go back to it. You see Pam has a lot of things attached to her, I am a changed being now and my old new name is testimony to that. I wanted to start afresh leave everything that represented Pam behind with Pam. All the pain, the misery, the regrets, and the bad choices I left all of that behind with Pam. I am Happiness NOW department of home affairs know this, my parents know this even my kids they now call me mamu’Happiness.
I mean how could I recover from that?
When I was younger I would ask my parents over and over how they decided on all our names, I would listen to them telling the stories behind each name. It’s amazing! It was as if retelling took them back to that time. Something in their expressions while telling would transcend I cant even explain it in words.To some people the name may seem obvious but to the giver the name represents a lot of things. The circumstances surrounding birth play a significance part in name giving. The state of mind of the parent(s) at that particular point in time. It is in the name that sometimes parents pour their hearts out, the gratitude, the expectations as to what or how the child will turn out to be.
Its a big deal
Not only to the name giver but to the person given the name. For instance while Ruth is a name taken from the bible for Ruth the lady who asked the question being born in South Africa and an African Ruth somehow didn’t sound African enough. I can only imagine her having to explain it while growing up, its only a four letter word one might think but the meaning is much more than that. If as an adult you just cant seem to associate your name with the person that you have become like my friend Pam I suppose it is only fair to change it…
Its what you are called by everyday its a big deal.
It’s a big deal.