I continue to pore through photographs and tapes of my trip to Georgia and South Carolina last summer.
“What’s taking you so long?” Monkey Mind yells from the wings (grabbing every opportunity to scratch his haunches).
“It’s a slow process, excavating the past,” I soberly reply. “Don’t rush me.”
Family history rises from the rich, black compost - memories, stories, memories of stories, sail by, like wispy transparent dots in front of my eyes. Then sink to the bottom while I digest. Pieces of kelp and seaweed. A crab leg floats by. Sometimes fresh catfish on the grill. Everything is grist for the mill.
When we drove from cemetery to cemetery last June, I listened to my parents recall details of their lives. I taped their voices (a gold mine). I took hundreds of photographs of the things left behind: ancient magnolias, crumbling brick, historic churches, lazy rivers, proud neighborhoods, rundown houses, antebellum architecture, and chiseled headstones. So many headstones.
My eyes sweep the marble and granite for the slightest hint of who my ancestors were: dates, places of birth and death, poetic epitaphs. And names.
But what’s in a name?
My sister is the namesake of my great, great Aunt Cassie. One of my brothers is named in honor of my uncle who died less than a month before I was born. Another brother is named after his grandfather and is a III. And yet another is named after his dad and is a Junior (yes, it’s complicated in my family!).
My mother’s middle name is her dad’s first name with -ine on the end (this is common in the South). My grandfather’s middle name doesn’t sound like a birth name at all, but more like a last name. And I want to make a point of asking Mom if his middle name is generational, and is really his mother’s last name.
Remember that song, The Name Game written and sung by Shirley Ellis in 1964? (If not, please feel free to refresh your memory by watching the video! It’s a real blast from the past.). The lyrics go something like this:
The name game!
Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley
Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!
Lincoln, Lincoln bo Bincoln Bonana fanna fo Fincoln
Fee fy mo Mincoln, Lincoln!
Shirley Ellis used to take requests and make a rhyme out of anybody’s name. It’s crazy, but this song was a HUGE hit when I was a kid. People love to hear the sound of their own names.
The Name Game. Many of us don’t use our real names on our blogs. Others do. But we don’t have to reveal our birth names to talk about where they came from.
Who are you named after? Do you know the historical origin of your last name (or is your last name hyphenated to preserve your mother’s history). What about your first? Do you know another person with the same name? Were you named after someone famous? Or did your parents choose your name because they loved the sound of it. Or wanted to make you stronger (a boy named Sue?).
When we are long gone, our names are the one thing that will live on through time. My great, great grandmother wanted to be remembered by the things she loved. What epitaph would you want next to your name?
Her Life Was Simple, and Edges,
Augusta, Georgia, June 2007, all photos
© 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 13th, 2008