Yesterday I was asking someone who is new to me what her name is. Her full name. No shortened abbreviated nicknames but the outright birth certificate name on the attendance sheet name. I met someone tonight at a reading group I’m attending and asked the proper spelling of one person’s name. Is that a Katherine with a K or a Catherine or do we have a rogue, hip, “ryn” attached to the end?
People’s names are fascinating little sentences. One of my best friend’s middle name is “Jack”. Not short for “John” like Jack usually is, but outright just Jack. I love it. I like knowing it.
It’s one of those things that I always do but have never really noticed until now. I want to know your name. The whole sha-bang, as it were.
Whenever someone gets my whole name they are always compelled to say it all out loud together, like they are pulling together different puzzle pieces into one final picture, sizing it up with their tongues and rolling it around with my identity, “Jason. Joseph. Tatum”.
Just like that and again, “JasonJosephTatum”. And one more time with feeling, properly spaced and starting to sound familiar: “Jason Joseph Tatum”. It’s when we learn someone’s full name on those occasions where we’ve actually taken the time to ask them because we want to know them, because we want to understand them a little better. We pause for a breath there at the end. We don’t even think about it, but we let it settle somewhere we don’t even know, and then we move forward.
I like to know a person’s name.
I like to imagine your parents meeting you for the first time in that delivery room, you’re all pink and screaming covered in that stuff. There you are brand new and your mother and father look on at your tiny closed eyes and they say it… your name… for the first time. They speak it over you.
They spoke it with such love and affection, I bet. Even the worst parents you’ve ever met did. In that hushed void of time that your name was filled by they met you and they gave something incredible to you. You were pure innocence. Whatever pain surrounded them, whatever tragedy laid at the door of their past or your future was nothing then. You just were: a little breathing collection of organized dust with nothing to call your own except this name.
I like to know a person’s full name and imagine that moment when our parents whispered it over us for the first time in a quiet room swirling in a chaotic mess of life. All that you ever are, all that you ever will be- it began here, and that’s something beautiful to me.