Saturday, August 18, 2012

It's All in the Name

Babies are given their names at birth for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes babies are named after grandma or grandpa, mom or dad, Cousin Billy or Aunt Matilda (Lord....I hope not!). Other times because mom and dad simply like the name, the way it rolls off the tongue, because it's the most popular name of the decade, because our favorite film or sports star has the name.

My son was named after a surgeon who helped me out a lot when I was younger. Not only was he my doctor, but my friend, never allowing me to pay him, helping me through school, taking time to educate me on my health issues. He was, and is, a great guy! So I named my son after him: Austin.

I, on the other hand, being a child of the 1950s (and yes, I am aware that I am old), was named after a woman who helped my mom and sisters out while daddy was in WWII. My godmother was a great lady and someone I remember fondly, but let's face it. Hazel is NOT a name for a child.

It was torture growing up with that name (sort of like I imagine a Matilda might feel). As a child, I was subjected to such torment as being called Witch Hazel, Hazel the Maid, Hazel was LOADS of fun.

I remember when Hazel, the television series first aired. I was in the 2nd grade and the day after the airing of its first episode, was one of the worst days I can ever remember at school.  Lots of the kids teased me. And to an impressionable seven-year-old, teasing hurts. At recess, I tried hiding. But on a playground where there were no trees, all I had to work with was getting lost in a crowd of children, or hiding behind playground equipment. Guess which one I chose...

That's right! I chose trying to hide behind the steel poles attached to the the slide, the seesaw, the swings. All with the mentality of  "if I can't see you, you can't see me". I learned at the ripe old age of seven the fallacy in that school of thought. Everyone saw me. The teasing was endless and painful.

As I grew up, I became interested in the Drill Team at our high school in Cabot, Arkansas. I tried out, was accepted, practiced like crazy all summer, then our first routine was done at a Friday pep rally. We introduced ourselves out on the football field while the entire student body sat in the stands. When I called out my name, everybody laughed. My name was a joke! The football players were the worst. Great! My first week of high school and I was the laughing stock!  I wanted to march myself right off the football field and transfer to a different high school in another galaxy far, far away.

As time passed and I grew older, it wasn't so bad. I got used to the name...sort of grew into it. When introducing myself to strangers, I usually heard things like, "Hazel, now that's a really old-fashioned name!" or "I don't think I know any other Hazels," then there's "You don't look like a Hazel!" (Oh, really? What does a Hazel look like anyway? Long crooked nose, big black hat, broom?)  But  my all time favorite was "I have an Aunt Hazel. She's what? 85 now?" (Picture me biting my tongue and fighting the urge to roll my eyes and storm away from Aunt Hazel's precious niece.)

Then it happened! Julia Roberts named one of her twins Hazel. I honestly thought she was smarter than that. Does she realize that poor child has to grow up with that name? Right alongside all the Matildas, Chesters, Lars, and Gladyses of the world.

To all of us with odd names: hold your head high. There's one thing about having an absurdly strange name: people always remember us. And cheer up! Maybe in the next life we'll have really COOL names! Like Tiffany, Amber, Justin, Marcus or one of those unisex names like Gray or Sean.

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