July 12, 2016
I shadowed my mother for years. She was a bundle of energy regardless of her mood. Trip-tripping after her all day was as natural as air. She sang songs, made up rhyming games, and criticized dust a lot. On the days she was winning the battle against clutter I could ask her anything.
Just before my 6th birthday I had a brief identity crisis. Daydreaming over milk and Oreo cookies all thoughts fixed on my name, Patricia. It seemed rather a mouthful. That was reason enough to shorten it. Mom explained to me once it meant regal. Then she giggled.
In truth I had three names:
“Patty” meant a call to action. I responded slowly.
“Paaaaaatriiiiiiiiiiciaaaa” meant guilt. I dove out of sight and invented excuses.
“PATRICIA MARIE” meant reformation. I headed for the nearest exit.
Half way into a final cookie dunk I considered the significance of my name. I chased the last bite with a gulp of milk, licked my mustache clean, and ran off to find Mom. I had an important question. She had the answer.
I found her two bedrooms down the hall. She was wearing seven glasses on her fingers nabbed from underneath the beds.
Out of breath now I asked, “Mom, who was I named after?”
She stopped in a peculiar pause.
“My grandfather Patrick, Patrick Michael Reagan.” I had heard that name before. I had even seen a picture of him- tall, narrow nose, thin build; didn’t look like anyone in the family I’d ever met.
My curiosity about this business of naming children piqued. The origin of mine could uncover clues about how I fit into the family. Had I been a boy our clan would have had two pairs, a matched set. Maybe Mom and Dad wanted a fourth boy. Was I a disappointment from day one? Every time she yelled “Patricia” would she rather have hollered “Patrick?”
Anticipation pushed out the crowning question.
“Mom, if I was a boy would you have named me Patrick?”
She blinked her answer.
Mom and glasses clinked around the corner.
I stared. Did she want a Patty or not?