In desperation (and knowing I had but a few moments to write today), I thought I would try responding to the NaBloPoMo’s Prompt of the Day: “If you had to switch your first name, what name would you choose and why?” … except that after I wrote it, I realized today is not November 7 and I responded to the wrong prompt. Sigh. My apologies…
My immediate (short) responses to the (incorrect) prompt are:
- “I can’t”
- “People have already done this for me”
- “Who calls me by my first name, anyway?”
I will tackle these in reverse order.
When “Mrs.” or “Mom” is my first name…
At school—and often in society, as I run into former students or their parents—I am simply, “Mrs. Dagen.” Forever. For instance, I go to the health club—often—and when I lift weights on the line, the young workers always call me by the name listed on my card: Sara. Sometimes I will be going through the line, when I will hear, “How many did you get on the arm cross machine, Mrs. Dagen?” And I won’t even have to look up to know I am dealing with a former student…
Numerous years ago, after I had methodically completed all my Christmas shopping for our family of seven and was determined to avoid crowds on Christmas Eve, the television in our bedroom died. My husband insisted I go to Circuit City for another, giving me the specific information on the item he wanted. Knowing the likely crowds and the small children I would drag with me (and slightly miffed that he would even lay such a burden on me), I said, “Well, if I don’t walk into that store and have someone call me by name and offer service, I am not buying anything.”
A few hours later, I walked into a store swarming with customers, as I turned to make sure my wandering son was still with me, I heard a voice, “Hello, Mrs. Dagen, is there something I can help you with today?” (I kid you not.) I responded, “Yes, I’m buying a TV!”
The sales clerk was a former student; he made the sale, made arrangements for delivery that day, and I made my husband happy. I am quite happy to be Mrs. Dagen.
At that happy, TV-filled home, I am “Mom.” It is a title well-earned, and I don’t mind hearing it in reference to myself. Though my children range from 17 to 28, I have been a mother for only 19 years (literally, today is 12 days shy of my anniversary—in which I married a widower and his four children; long, beautiful story). Less than six months into the marriage and motherhood, we went on vacation as a family—and my children temporarily went from calling me “Sara” to calling me “Mom.” I still think it was because they wanted to appear like any other happy family. But when we got home, my second son, Ben, who was in third grade at the time, continued. I still remember him holding hands with me as we walked to the grocery store and asking, “Mom, is your ‘love cup’ full?” It was and is. I love being Mom.
When “Laura” is my first name…
My only daughter, Laura, is the reason for the thought, “People have already done this for me.” Though she is 5’2″ with gorgeous red hair and I am 5’10” (plus a half inch) with mousy blond hair, I am often mistakenly called “Laura,” and she is often called “Sara.” People will speak directly to me about how they saw my daughter Sara the other day, and I just smile, knowing exactly who they mean. Laura does the same when our names are reversed. We respond to either.
A month or so ago, when I went for a dental checkup, my dentist told me that Laura (now an adult) had come in for a visit about her wisdom teeth, and that for the consultation, my lovely redhead had been sitting face to face, instead of lying down in the dental chair. My dentist exclaimed, “When I saw her, I said, ‘You look exactly like your mom!’ ” My precious, non-biological daughter didn’t clarify, nor did I. She is the daughter I never birthed but am so blessed to call my own; I am the mother she couldn’t have had without an amazing God placing us in the same family. I love being Laura.
When “Sara” is my first name…
Perhaps we all like to hear the story of where or why or how we got our name. I have friends with four children who were each named after the city in which they were conceived; it is a good thing they traveled so much or life would be rather confusing. When I asked my mother why she named me “Sara Jane,” she told me it was because she knew a dance instructor with the name Sarah Jean and liked it but didn’t want to copy it exactly. It isn’t a very deep reason for a name, and it isn’t the story that makes me realize I can’t change my parent-chosen first name. My aunts still call me Sara Jane. (And, of course, when I was in trouble, my parents did too.) Usually, however, I was simply Sara.
My name, by the way, means Princess, and as a king’s kid (as in the King of Kings, the Lord Most High, God of the Universe), I’m about as princess-y as you can get. I have spent my life spelling my name—not because it is difficult to spell but because I must clarify. I am Sara without an “h.” (I often tell people “I am not God-breathed,” as Sarai and Abram—Sarah and Abraham—got the “h” added to their names when God breathed his promises into them; Sarai moved from being “my princess” to simply “princess” as Sarah, while Abram moved from being “high father” to “father of multitudes” as Abraham.)
When I was young, I imagined being called Miranda or Emily, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve never considered a change. Before my husband’s first wife died, she enlisted the help of an artist to create name art for each of her children and her husband. Each is decorated in a fashion and lists each person’s first and middle name, as well as the meaning of those names and an appropriate Scripture verse. As a wedding gift, my husband enlisted that same artist to create one for my name. It included me in the family—and forever imprinted on me the importance of a name—a first name AND a family name.
And I wouldn’t change a thing.