My wife and I were recently discussing titles and names. To be more specific, what our future grandchildren will call us. Seems a bit trivial, really; but is it? Most people will probably never give this subject any thought at all. They will continue on, using whatever they called their grandparents or some variation. Others will attempt to teach the little ones a name for them and just go with whatever the child has the ability to say, for no other reason than it just sticks or they think it’s cute.
So why the conversation then? I let my mind wander, playing with the notion for a little while trying to come up with an answer. I think it all has to do with association and maybe a little bit of possession. Let me explain.
We use names and titles extensively in our lives. Baby books sell like crazy. Top 10, 25 and 100 ‘most popular name’ lists are a constant on the internet. Children name their stuffed animals and imaginary friends. Families spend unbelievable amounts of time naming the family pet(s). Even the unborn/newborn do not become official, it seems, until they have a name. Titles at work or in organizations give you seniority, rank, even a persona.
If you stop and look at it, no one is merely John or Stacey. People associate names and titles to traits or actions and the name takes on a meaning. Ruthie may become ‘a Ruth,’ Willy or Billy may grow up to be ‘a Bill’ or ‘a William,’ as if somewhere along the line, there was some sort of transition, a metamorphosis, that changes them. Your high school years seem to become a literary cocoon of sorts. How often have you heard ‘he looks like a Kyle’ or ‘she doesn’t strike me as an Alexis?’ Pet names become the norm for those who don’t ‘fit’ someone’s idea of the physical entity that encases the name. How often have you heard ‘This is Vince, but we call him Cobretti’ (or similar, obviously)? The person now takes the physical form of the pet name.
Titles are no different. A simple Grandma or Grandpa, in my case, turned from merely what you are into who you want to be; moreover, who you DON’T want to be. We looked at all of the variations of GPA and GMA we have been exposed to and assigned them to their owners, whittling the list down quickly:
– Maw-Maw/Paw-Paw was already taken and fits my Mother and Father-in law, not us
– Ma/Pa just didn’t fit and belong to my parents
– Granny forever belongs to one of the three most interesting and incredible people I have ever met; my wife’s Great Grandmother Jewel, a woman who had seen and lived through more than I believe I will ever be able to in my lifetime, yet never learned how to drive, still wore scarves when she went out, and saved or re-used things to the point that you would have thought she coined the meaning of ‘living green.’
– Grandma/Grandpa belong to the other two. My wife’s grandparents, Bill (still with us) and Bonnie (now moved on to a better place), hold the titles of Grandpa and Grandma. Not that we believe that we can or are expected to ever fill either one’s shoes, but these two amazing people struck me instantly as the epitome of the matriarch and patriarch of a family. They are and were the wisest, most down to earth mixture of stubborn and sweet that you could come across. They never held their silence when the harder, more difficult things needed to be said and they always took care of the people around them in the way that they needed to be taken care of. It was as if they knew everything and when to make things happen, without fail. Though the occasional tongue lashings stung, I have yet to meet a single person that did not respect them for who they were, what they were, and what they believed in. They are and were the glue that holds the family together.
There is my case, in point. Four title sets, rendered unavailable, merely because we have assigned them to others who fit them better. Think of the titles you will never have for similar reasons. Think of titles you want and what the reasons are. Does it still seem so trivial? I bet not. Interesting people we all are, aren’t we?
Oh, just so you don’t feel cheated and left hanging with our little grandparent title debacle… my wife and I had decided in a very similar conversation a while back that we would just step outside of the American norm and use the Italian translations for Grandma and Dad (to avoid any confusion, as Grandpa sounds very similar to ‘NO-NO’). The winners are: Nonna and Papa.