Friday, April 26, 2013

Code Name: Heinie

It's the winter of 1994. Brian and I meet behind the closed door of our bedroom at 10pm each night. He holds a black Sharpie in one hand. I hold my bulging belly.

"Well?" he asks. "Which one tonight?"

 A big sheet of Christmas wrapping paper is taped to the back our of bedroom door, back side facing out. Two columns are carefully labeled on the blank paper -- "Boy" on the left, "Girl" on the right. Each column has more than two dozen names. My contributions to the list are printed in my handwriting. Brian's contributions are in his handwriting.

"It's your night to pick one," I say.

"What's with this one?" he asks pointing to a name on the girl's list. "What kind of name is 'Shlow'?"

"That's 'Chloe', not 'Shlow'," I correct him, chuckling to myself.

"That's how you spell it?" he questions me just moments after I questioned his pronunciation. "If I didn't know, then there's no sense that it's here."

With that, he pulls the cap off the Sharpie and strikes through the name in one bold move. If this baby growing inside me is a girl, her name isn't going to be "Chloe" (or "Shlow" -- lol).

We went through this process night after night until my belly was full-sized and the list was down to just a pair of names in each column. Two years later, we went through the same process with our second pregnancy. This was the way we picked our children's names -- their given names.

What about nicknames? Most families have nicknames for their kids. How did our kids get theirs?

As a newborn, Brian used to say that Ashley was like a little peanut. Over a few months, it morphed into simply "Pea." In a somewhat high pitched, sustained voice, he calls out "Pea!" He repeats this any time one of them enters the house (especially after a prolonged absence), greeting her on the phone or when video chatting, and occasionally when she's not even with us, but upon me mentioning something about her or about something she told me.

Do I ever use this enduring term for her? Nope. Why not? Because it's become their own sort of thing -- a father-daughter thing. (Although Brielle sometimes uses the sign for 'pea' when talking about her.)

I don't recall exactly how Brielle got her first nickname. I can picture Ashley as a toddler and preschooler referring to Brielle as "Muffy". However, I have no idea how it got started. It later morphed into "Muffin". We used that nickname for maybe a half dozen years. None of us use this nickname for her anymore. How did it go by the wayside? No clue.

Her other nickname started because of her gate (I think). With her right leg dragging slightly behind her, she sort of "scuffles along". Brian started calling her "Ole Scruffle Bear"  (with "r" added). He even made up a cute little song about it! :) This morphed into calling her just "Bear." With a scratchy low voice, he calls out "Bear!" in the same circumstances he might call out "Pea!"

Two "Bears" Together
Spring 2000
That's just one nickname Brian uses for Brielle.

I'm not sure how it started, but he also calls her "One, One, One" -- yes, always in three's and said very quickly. Often a pointed finger curls up and down simultaneously.

Lately, she has been asking me to call her "Sweetie Pie." It started in an email I sent her back in January when I was away for a long scrapbooking weekend. I used it ONE TIME and now she wants me to use it all of the time.

But, can someone ask to be called a particular nickname? She thinks so.

Brielle and Brian have this running joke in their daily emails to one another. "Call me Bear," she writes one day. The next day when he calls her "Bear", she writes "Call me one".

I have a difficult time calling my children by any nickname. I wonder why....

Maybe because I think back to those cold, winter nights in Wisconsin that I stood by our bedroom door holding my growing belly. Each swipe of the Sharpie defined our children's future in some way. "Pea" is not on the birth certificate of our child born in 1994. "Bear" is not on the birth certificate of our child born in 1996.

I'm not suggesting nicknames are not useful or are a mockery of their given names. Quite the contrary. Nicknames are special.

I was once a little girl whose daddy had a nickname for her. My dad used to call me "Heinie"-- as in hind end or derriere. He often paired repeating my nickname along with playfully swatting me on my back side.

Then, like when a son no longer wants his mother to kiss him in front of his friends, this preteen girl began to hate her father's nickname for her. In a dramatic scene, I boldly ordered him to stop calling me "Heinie" and stop slapping me on my butt.

I think my father's heart broke a little that day. I'm so sorry, Dad. There are days now when I miss my nickname. But, how do you ask someone to start calling you by their old nickname for you?

My Dad & Me
May 2012
Nicknames have a time and place. In our family, they have created a bond -- a bond between daughter and father. I let my daughters and their father have that. It's theirs and theirs alone. Something special they will always remember with their father.

"Bear" & "Pea" with Dad
To me, it's "Ashley" (or maybe "Ash") and "Brielle." For Brian, it's rarely "Ashley" and "Brielle." Each bond they have with us is unique -- as it should be.

"Heinie"...signing off.....!

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