When my eldest was in 5th grade, we went to open house night at his school and took part in a surprising little icebreaker, the effects of which amaze me still today.
The classroom, the whole school for that matter, was a hot dish (Minnesota for casserole) of children of old hippies, mixed-race couples, refugees from Laos, and families for whom Spanish was their native tongue. As a whole, we parents had little in common, though our kids were quite familiar with each others' likes, dislikes, eccentricities, good and not-so good traits, and attendance habits.
Their teacher, who I will admire till the day I die, knew how to mix things up with these kids, how to level the playing field, and how to teach them to affirm the best in each other.
So on this evening of cookies and lemonade and have-a-look-at-your-kids' room time, she gave us a taste of how its done. Simply. Gently. Profoundly.
She had us all sit on the circle-time carpet and quiet ourselves. Then she asked each of us, parent and child, to take turns telling the story of how we got our names. I expected a quick dash around the circle and then we'd be on our way. But that was not the case.
Instead, one by one, as if we were lazily sitting around a campfire, we reached back into our memories and called forth tales of our forebears, flora and fauna from our homelands, legendary musicians, artists, and writers, people of great integrity and no fame, and, in my case, a swashbuckler actor from the 50s.
Without exception, each child knew the background of her or his name, and could tell the story, some with flourish, others with shyness. Even the parents who barely spoke English managed to tell their stories using a few known words, hand gestures, nervous laughter, and with a little help from their grinning kids.
The evening left me feeling happily connected to these people, at least for that moment, and to my own family's quirkiness.
Apparently, my father knew long before he had a daughter that he would name her Kathleen. For inspiration for my middle name, my mother looked to her film star sweetheart, Tyrone Power, whose daughter goes by Taryn.
And so I ask you: How did you get your name?
Image by J.P. Silva
Image 1 by uzvards
Image 2 from wikipedia