The name game

My father was a musician. He played the piano and the trombone, and in college he played the latter in a dance band. One of the songs he played was “Laura,” and that became my parents’ song. (It was the ’50s, and couples had songs — you’ve seen “Back to the Future,” right?) So when their first-born daughter came along, it was natural to name her “Laura.” (For which I am eternally grateful — Mother says they considered “Roberta,” for my dad, Bob. No offense to Robertas, but I don’t see it.)

But we’re a family prone to nicknames, and a song called “Lollipop” (with very deep lyrics: “Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolly, lollipop …”) became a hit — and my nickname became “Lolly” for a while when I was very little.

Fast forward 50 years. We’re in Liz’s room at Baptist North shortly after Jude’s birth — Liz and Brent, Ben and Elizabeth and John and me. “Come to Grandma,” I said as I reached for the precious bundle. It’s what my kids called my mother and what I thought we’d decided would be my grandmother name. Mother was eager to move up to Gigi, for Great-Grandma.

“Um, Mom, about that,” one of the kids said. (I confess, they’re just over a year apart in age and sometimes I can’t remember which kid said what, but I think this was Liz.) “We don’t want you to be ‘Grandma.’ You don’t seem like a grandma, and Grandma’s already ‘Grandma.’ You’ve got to come up with something else.”

I’ve always claimed “Flexible” was my middle name (it’s not really — my parents weren’t weirdos), but this did catch me off guard. I’ve never wanted a foo-foo grandmother name and hadn’t considered any other options.

“What would you like to be called?”

Grandma, I thought. But that was obviously off the table. I was momentarily confused about why Ben and Elizabeth even cared and were in on this intervention, then I realized it was because the first grandchild set the names. They had a stake in this horserace.

“Have you ever had a nickname?”

Hmmm. “Well, when I was little my parents called me Lolly. I guess I could be Lolly and John could be Pop.”

Smiles from Liz and Brent. Serious contemplation, then approval from Ben. And wide-eyed delight from Elizabeth — “THAT is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. I think I’m going to cry.”

John could dig it and I was certainly comfortable with being a once and future Lolly.

And Gigi — yeah, that didn’t happen either. Jude decided she was Grammy, which thrilled her to death, and the kids’ Grandpa Bill — really the only grandpa they’ve known since Daddy died when they were toddlers — became Papa Bills. (As in, “Jude, you want to go to Grandma’s and Grandpa Bill’s?”)

So that’s how we play the name game in this family.

Lolly, lolly bo bolly, banana fanna fo folly …

Once I was a tiny and my nickname was Lolly.

Then I became a grandmother and became Lolly again. Jude's assorted baby nicknames included Sir Stinksalot and, my favorite, Vladimir, because he was always Putin.


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