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  • Betty Girardeau

Nicknames


Last year I planted English and French lavender plants in my yard. The French one did not make it. But the English one has taken off like a rocket. It is currently three to four times larger than when I first planted it, and is now loaded with flowers. And the flowers are attracting a hoard of bees. Because the plant is in a plot bordering my driveway, I have to pass it several times a day as I go out for the mail, go for a walk, or just tidy up the yard a bit. I have tried several times to get a good image of the visiting bees, but these guys really move fast from one bloom to the next, resulting in many images where it is almost impossible to notice the bees at all. This is one of my better efforts. There are actually four bees in this one. They and their friends are sucking up nectar literally from dawn to dusk every day. I needed to tell you all of this in order to get to my real topic for this post, which is nicknames. When I was very young my Dad used to call me "Busy". At some point I was curious enough to ask him why, and he said it was because I was "as busy as a bee." I sort of understood the "why" for this nickname even then, but as I have been watching the bees all over my English lavender I really can totally appreciate the fact that my Dad must have always seen me in motion from the time I got up until I finally went to sleep, which even as a child, falling to sleep was a challenge for me. I just did not want to miss out on anything. When I was able to read, I would often sneak books into bed with me and either read by bedside table light (not such a good idea because the light would shine under the bottom of my bedroom door) or flashlight. Other nights, when my parents were watching television (my Dad built our first one in 1952, making us about the first home in my small town to have one) I would sneak down and hide under the dining room table so I could watch, too. And when they had their friends over to play cards, I would hide along the railings in the upstairs hall so I could listen into all the fun they were having. I remember one night when my Mother actually caught me under the dining room table and thought, as a punishment for not going to bed and to sleep when I should, that I would have to stay up and stay awake until they went to bed, which was usually about eleven at night and about when, in those days, the TV channel would shut down and play the National Anthem. I thought my punishment was wonderful and loved being able to spend that extra time with them and the TV. My Mother recognized I did not see this as any kind of punishment from my perspective and never used that again as a leverage to get me to go to sleep when she thought I should. This explains a bit about my Dad's nickname for me. He came from a family that liked to dub odd names on each other. My Dad's brother was called "Famous," and my Dad was "Bub," We always called his parents "Hap" and "Chis." I have no idea about how these names came about. Certainly in regards to my grandfather, he was, as far as I could ever tell, anything but always happy. So why "Hap"? And why "Chis." Her name was Florence. I think I can understand my Uncle Raymond's nickname. He was the older brother, and he was determined to be the best and to be famous, too. I am not sure any of that really happened, but I do think he tried. Today I learned of the recent death of one of my college classmates. In reading the lovely obituary memories created by her family, I discovered that one of the things she had always been famous for was giving people that she knew and cared about nicknames. Some of my classmates have already shared the ones she had given them, such as "Smacks," "Mert," "Evel," and "BB." Interestingly, some of these nicknames have survived among our classmates to this day. Nicknames were undoubtedly given out a sense of love and appreciation, and, for those of us that have been given them, we felt honored in some way. I don't hear real nicknames used as much anymore. I wonder why? Instead, it seems that more often, if we call anyone by something other than their name, it is a slur or a put down. How sad.

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