I am in an altered state. I get this way when I near the end of a book I am engrossed in. Yes, I even saw that I ended my sentence with a preposition and I have no desire to correct it. I told you I am in an altered state.
My grandmother used to have two to three books going at a time, a practice that I could never understand. However, as of late, I am getting wrapped up in novels that I don’t want to end but at the same time can’t wait to see how they end. I get so static when this happens. I bargain with myself. I will clean the floor then I will sit down and read the rest. I clean the floor. I sit in my favorite reading chair. A paragraph in I decide I need something to drink. I make myself a cup of tea. I sit down again and start to read. After reading another page, I notice something that is really not out of place suddenly looks out of place so I rearrange the knick knacks on the end tables. Dust bunnies, beware. Finally, after everything is in absolute order, I finish the book, after which I am in limbo.
At the moment, I am nearing the end of The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. The main character of this book is brought up in America, by parents of another culture with a lesser known name from yet another culture. Upon reaching adulthood he decides to change his name. This theme of the name change runs through the book, reiterated once again near its end. A girl who has known him since his boyhood reappears in his life. Without giving away much of the story, I just want to share a quote:
“She’d liked that he’d changed his name from Gogol to Nikhil; though she had known him all those years, it was the thing that made him somehow new, not the person her mother had mentioned.”
This quote made me leaf back through the book to find another made by Nikhil (Gogol) himself, during a dinner party where they are trying to come up with names for the hosts’ unborn baby.
“Relax,” Edith says. “The perfect name will come to you in time.”
Which is when Gogol announces, “There’s no such thing.”
“No such thing as what?” Astrid says
“There’s no such thing as a perfect name. I think that human beings should be allowed to name themselves when they turn eighteen.” he adds. “Until then, pronouns.”
So now, as yet another distraction to keep me from finishing the book, I start thinking of names. I never particularly cared for my own name growing up. I was named after a friend of my mother, so in my eyes it was an old ladies’ name. I could count on the fingers on one hand the number of Joyces I have run across that were my own age. I guess I will just have to grow into my name. I remember thinking how could parents name their daughters Stacie and Lisa, what would they do as old ladies with such youthful names? Of course, I was somewhat jealous that I did not possess such a trendy name.
My own daughter, with a name that I chose because I loved it, decided to change her name. We had just moved to a new house and I suppose she thought this the best chance for a new start. I didn’t find this out until a girl appeared at our door looking for Sara. I told her she must have the wrong house, that there was no Sara here. She insisted that the new girl in the house was Sara. Alia, sheepishly appeared and the truth came out. The name change didn’t last, but the story will never go away.
Different cultures have different traditions. Here in Jordan, parents actually take on the names of their children, well sort of. My husband, from the time I knew him, even before we were married knew he would name his firstborn son Rod, or in Arabic, Raad. The name in Arabic means thunder, which would mean he would be AbuRaad, father of thunder! What a strong, powerful name. I was amused by this testosterone charged superhero name, until I found out that I would be called UmmRaad. That, to me, was like saying I was not Joyce anymore. Suddenly Joyce had more appeal. I did not want to be referred to as so and so’s mom. So I kept Joyce, but I do respond to UmmRaad.
I have encountered a few classmates who since high school have changed their names. If I were to choose another name it still wouldn’t be something commonplace. I had some neighbors who for some reason thought my name was Fiona. This was way before Shrek and I liked that name. I purposely didn’t correct them, just so I could be called Fiona every now and then. Would you ever consider changing your name? If so, what and why?