A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22
Who in the world names their newborn baby daughter Edwin? My parents, that’s who.
I honestly can tell you that I didn’t realize that was my name until I went to Crafts School. Actually, my full name is Edwin Anne (with an e) Welling so you can imagine my surprise when my first grade teacher called the role. My name had filtered in with the boys role call. “Edwin, Welling, Edwin Welling? Edwin, please answer here if you are present in the classroom.” I looked all around waiting for someone to answer as did all of my six year old classmates. Finally, I raised my hand and said, “Miss Honor, my name is Anne Welling.”
“Oh my, there must have been some mix-up. Don’t worry about it Anne. We will get it taken care of.” But she couldn’t fix it as it was unfixable. I could hear all of my class-mates giggling.
I didn’t worry about it, I took her at her word. However, the rest of my class-mates did. I was called Edwin by the boys for the rest of the year whenever they were out of ear-shot of my teacher. “Edwin, do you want to play ball with us? Edwin, your rest room is over here, the one marked boys.” It went on and on.
At this point, I probably should tell you something about my six year old self. I was the biggest girly-girl in the world. I dreamed I was a princess, I may even thought secretly that I was a princess. I loved wearing my hair in ringlets like Shirley Temple and I would sit for hours enduring the painful procedure while my Momma curled them with a hot curling iron. ( I can still feel that hot iron close to my head if I really think hard.) I loved wearing frilly dresses, bows in my hair and black patent leather shoes. I was constantly dreaming of my prince who would ride up on his white horse and whisk me away. Playing dolls and dress up were my forte and I could not wait until I was old enough to wear make-up. I always wanted to have my nails and toes painted the brightest red polish that Momma had. Pink was my favorite color with purple was not far behind. I would never have considered playing any of the games boys played. They were not on my hemisphere. I could not imagine why boys wanted to get so dirty or act so crude.
My name, Edwin, did not go away, nor did the teasing that I took. This is the way, it was all through school. My classmates at Crafts Grade School were used to it by the time we went to Nathans Junior High, but then we encountered a new group of kids from Bennett Grade School that joined us and it began all over again. At Memminger High School, we were an all girls school, except for one Edwin, me. It even followed me into Nursing School. I think they thought they had a male nurse long before there were any. My friends again teased me unmercifully about my name.
There were a few other different names in our group, but they had already been given nicknames like “Muffy” or “Bunny” or “Honey”. Even the boys with hideous family names were called “Bubba” or “Trey” or “Bry” or “Bubsey” when they were “knee high to a grasshopper.”
I longed for one of those cute little names, but my Momma would not have any part of a nickname. She named me Anne so there would not be one. (I guess she forgot that she had dubbed me with Edwin.)
I began to hate my name. I envied my sister who was named after my beloved Momma, Betty Louise Welling. I thought she was lucky because she got the good name. Now, mind you, I loved my Father, I just hated that I had to bear the burden of his name. I don’t know what they would have done if they had had a boy after I was born. Erase it? Maybe have two Edwins?
When I met my husband to be, I did not tell him my full name. It wasn’t that I was keeping it a secret but I don’t recall that he ever asked and I was on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about my name. I certainly wasn’t planning to offer up that information unless our relationship became serious. He was a third, which he felt was a big handle, so he was reluctant to ever get into names. His father was called Jack and so was he. For years, when someone called on the telephone, they would ask, “Do you want Big Jack or Little Jack?” Somewhere in his teens, Little Jack became bigger than Big Jack, then it was, “Do you want the football player or the cartoonist?”
I can’t recall exactly when I told my husband to be what my full name was. I think it might have been when we applied for our marriage license. The clerk asked me what my full name was and I sort of whispered it to her. She immediately said, “Miss, you will have to speak louder.” With that, all eyes were on me as I loudly told her my name. I do recall my husband-to-be held back a muffled laugh. I also know he used it from that day forward for many years as leverage when he wanted to tease me.
When Johnny Cash came out with his big hit, A BOY NAMED SUE, I tried to think of words that rhymed with Edwin. Maybe I could write a song about my name. My name is Edwin, I was born to sin? My name is Edwin, I was named after my kith and kin? My name is Edwin, I’ll get under your skin? They just didn’t have the same hook as How do you do, my name is Sue.
I was plagued with this name all of my life. It is on my Social Security card, my driver’s license, my marriage license, my children’s birth certificates, my Registered Nurse’s License and all other important documents. I feel it is important to tell you that I do not hate the name Edwin. In fact, I rather like the name. I named one of my children Edwin (but I did not add Anne). He was named for my Father, Edwin Welling Knox. I, however, was never pleased that it was my name. My husband would tell people that we named our son after his Momma when he was in a particularly playful mood. I think he probably told my son that too.
Once I asked my Momma why they had named me a boy’s name. Her answer was, “ Anne, it’s your Father’s name. You should be proud to be named after him.” I knew by the tone of her voice and the serious look on her face, it was her final answer.
She also named my sister and I names that she thought could not bear nicknames, Betty and Anne. Much to her surprise and dismay I might add, because my name was Anne with an e, many friends call me Annie. My husband always knew where the friend knew me from when they asked for Anne or Annie. My husband, close friends and co-workers call me Annie and my family and Memminger friends calls me Anne. I love both names. It beats the heck out of being called Edwin.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize how foolish I was to worry about my name. I should have been proud to have been named for my Father. He was a great man, a man of God. I still get mail for Edwin A. W. Knox and I always smile when I do. It makes me remember my parents and what a wonderful childhood they gave us and how they started us on our life’s journey with good values and morals and a great love for God.
I have thought a lot about my name being Edwin over the years. I remember way back when I had that serious talk with my Momma. She told me that it was up to me to make sure I had a good name. All the things that we do or say will determine whether you have a good name. Having a good name requires good motives and priorities.You must live with a clear conscience and make amends when you have offended someone or done something wrong. It represents who you are and how you lived your life. Your name is the soul of your reputation.
My Father, Edwin Welling, had a honorable reputation and an impeccable good name. I look at the names that are given to newborns today and I am sure Edwin Anne Welling would fly way under the radar. I quince at some of the names and think, Edwin was not too bad. Parents need to consider all the reprisals of a name before they give it to their newborn. (Could you possibly take someone named Bambi serious?) That child should be proud to carry it through life. Some parents want a name that is unique and different so they make one up or spell it in a different way. Some concoct the weirdest names possible. (Who knew Shabuka was a real name?)
I hope all my children like their names. The only one I ever asked was my son, Edwin, whom we call Ed. He seemed pretty happy with his name (to my relief). We often dislike certain names because we knew someone with that name who wasn’t particularly nice or have wronged us in some way. (I must admit I dislike the name Barbara because the Barbara that lived around the corner from me was terrifying, a big tom-boy twice my size who always threatened to beat me up.)
As I said before, I did not dislike the name, Edwin, but did not want it to be a girl’s name, my name to be exact. The teasing of my name, Edwin, has long since subsided or least it doesn’t bother me anymore. It stopped bothering me years ago when someone was taunting me and I answered, “Yes, my name is Edwin. I was named for my Father. I only hope I have lived up to that name with an honorable reputation and have an impeccable good name just as he did.” It was at that moment I realized how blessed I was.
Would I have chosen that name for myself? No, I doubt if I would have. It wasn’t my choice to make, but I do know it was given to me with love and for that I am extremely blessed. If my parents were here right now, I would thank them for giving me their good name and I pray I can keep it untarnished forever.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death is better than the day of birth. Ecclesiastes 7:1