Saturday, July 13, 2019

**GRIOT** Named and Loved

Okay, so I was chatting online with some of the nieces and nephews about these Griot posts. They love hearing about their 'grandpeople' and I love sharing what I can remember. Since the cousins are all about the genealogy these days, I thought that I could talk about some of the names that run in our line.

A name is a special thing. Your surname can be a kind of placeholder in history. Your first names sometimes are meant to reflect the hopes pinned on you. In the Bible, names are very important. God would change people's name or bless their names. Today, we honor our Adamic past by giving children Bible names. I watched a documentary the other day where the presenter noted that you won't find a lot of children named after Judas Iscariot. I had never thought of that before. Personally, I have always believed that the name a child grows up with can have a serious impact on their personality and attitude, not to mention in how the rest of the world might see them. That's why we make cruel fun of people by calling them a "Becky" or "Shanequa" - and I have been cruel in that way...

In my family, nicknames were kind of a big deal. My mother had an older brother named Eber but everyone called him "Mutt". Uh, yeah. Don't ask because I don't know. There were other male relatives or close friends known as Sonny, Sonny Boy, Snookie Boy, and Bugs.

One of my mother's sisters - the one who passed before I was old enough to know her - had a beautiful name: French L. The "L" didn't stand for anything, it was just part of her birth name. I do remember that some of my folks would pronounce her name as "Frānch L.", going long on the 'a'. Apparently, she was as beautiful as her name. She must have been a riot though. I heard one story about her once being a little tipsy and admonishing a child for having their shoes on the wrong feet. The child knew better than to mention it, but the adults who were there cracked up laughing because Aunt French L's shoes were also on the wrong feet. Aunt French L's granddaughter was named after her but we mostly called her just "French" or "Frenchie".

Some of the adults I knew as a child were always referred to by their initials. To this day, I can't tell you what Aunt French L's husband's real name was. We just called him Mr. J.B.

My father always called my mother Hon but most of her other family and friends called her "Tootsie" (or, as they pronounced it, "Too-see"). This is because she was very dark complected but, as a child and teenager, had fire-red hair. Being so black-skinned with that red hair, she looked to them like a Tootsie Pop. She dyed her hair a deep brown for years until it started to grow in as a darker auburn. Here's something crazy: I'm very dark-skinned like my mother and my hair also tends towards auburn if I don't keep it dyed. In addition to that, I inherited from my father blue encircled irises. It's a harmless condition and not a totally uncommon thing although it can freak people out when the sun hits my eyes the right way. Without the sun shining into them, most people don't notice anything different about my dark brown eyes.

Back to the wonderful nicknames, one of my favorite uncles - formally named a Jr after his father, Oscar Sr - was always called Hot Shot (or 'Hah-shot'). My grandfather was known to his friends as "Bud". Oscar Sr's wife (my step-grandmother) was "Miss Ollie" to everyone, including me and the other grandchildren. By the way, young Rudy Cosby sounded just like Miss Ollie did when saying "Bud".

Granddaddy Bud's first wife, my grandmother, was named Gretchel but, for some reason, everyone called her "Aunt Jack".For the longest time, I thought her first name must have been Jacqueline or Jackie.

I had a cousin we always called "Yogi". Whenever a teacher in school used her birth name of Saundra, everyone - including Yogi - would look around to see who she was referring to. Other cousins and peers of mine had names that had to do with sweetness: Peaches, Cookie, Sugar, Candy. I use those names for characters in my stories because I loved the real people.

Now that  I think of it, my Texas family were the ones with nicknames. Not so much with my Arkansas relatives. I'm going to have to think about that a little bit. Actually, my dad's father was never called George; everyone called him Mr.Tampa and I don't know why that is since "Tampa" was no part of his actual name... Now I'm going to have to get in touch with one of the aunties! I need to know what was going on with my grandpa's name!

Remember now that my paternal grandfather - Mr. Tampa - was a Louisiana man. His relatives did have nicknames. I remember a distant female cousin (?) that was called "Big'un". I really am going to have to talk to my paternal aunties because I cannot remember some of the other nicknames for the Lousiana family...

My oldest brother was called "Chubby". When he was younger, he was, in fact, kind of chubby. My sister who I've talked so much about over the years was nicknamed "Mike" and there's a story behind that. I was Penny to my parents and siblings up until I became a teenager. One of my older brothers still calls me by that nickname on occasion and I had one uncle who called me that until he died a couple of years ago. Apparently, as an infant, I was copper-colored like a new penny. As I got older and my skin darkened, one of my older brothers started calling me "Black Knight". Yeah. Cute... In high school, I went through a phase where I used only my middle name: Michele. Some of my closest friends back then called me Bones because I was so rail-thin. Oh, the good old days of carbs without consequences!

Names are not just an identity. Your name belongs to you in a way that can help shape your identity. When you love someone - through kinship, friendship, or romance - their name on your tongue has the taste of your relationship with them. You might remember that favorite quote of mine is by a child who defined love as keeping someone's name safe in your mouth. That's so real.

Thinking back to some of the first people, Adam's and Eve's names had meaning. Even God has several names and they each have a special meaning. I personally like to think of Him as El Shaddai and Elohim. To go further, even love has different names. In reference to my faith, Agape (or Agapao) love is the one that most comforts me.

So, when you think of your loved ones and speak their names, remember what the Bible teaches about the power of the tongue. Keep those names safe in your mouth. Speak their names with love and peace and hopes for their well-being. Even when speaking of your enemies, be careful not to use their names in ways you wouldn't want anyone to use yours.


And since I am in a praising the Lord mood right now, here's some Third Day with beautiful lyrics