Today I seized a upon an urge to be spontaneous and called one of my cousins. We are close, the kind of close that we could easily see each other every day and not run out of things to talk about–or see each other once in every long while and pick up seamlessly right where we last left off. So, when I called him, just to be playful, I asked to speak to the CEO of his company. He is self-employed, and is pretty much the quintessential one man show. However, his company name is very unique and impressive–it is the kind of name that just screams to have a CEO. Fortunately, wacky humour is something of a family trait–so he gets why asking to speak to the CEO of his company might crack me up.
This time he didn’t miss much of a beat (in times past there was a bit of a “ummm…..what?”) he said, “Hey! That’s me! Who’s this?”. Without stammer or hesitation, I told him–using my nickname. If I had used my real name he wouldn’t have recognized me–at least not instantly. While I am not one who easily inspires nicknames, I do have one nickname from my childhood that stuck with me–at least as far as my cousin is concerned. When my cousin introduces me to his friends–he introduces me by my nickname. For me, it is kind of a mark of honour, and thanks to the wacky sense of humour gene, it is kind of fun.
I got to thinking about nicknames, titles, and terms of endearment. Somehow, they all are the same to me. Most people seem to flinch inside if their childhood nickname is exposed to the uninitiated. For me, it kind of warms my heart a little. It is the same when I hear any of my nieces, and nephews preface my name with “Auntie”. Even at work, one of my dear friends and colleagues still calls me “Boss”. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to take it–this lady’s sneezes have more teaching experience than I have. Was she being sarcastic, defiant, or self-effacing? It was none of those–it was, in fact one of those “Dead Poets Society” things. The word “Boss” was chalk full of affection and respect.
My beautiful colleague taught me that these titles only have worth when offered in that spirit. It is just like nicknames, and endearments: they only stand the passage of time when they are charged with love and affection. So, as I navigate my way through the sometimes muddy, foggy waters known as ‘in-laws’, I might struggle with first names, and the usage of titles like “Mom” or “Dad” at least until I can forge an endearing nickname that honours the lovely people who brought my husband into this life. I might visibly melt when my husband’s nephews call me “Auntie”, or even when my nieces and nephews refer to my husband as “Uncle”. And even though my youngest niece will soon be old enough to vote, drink, and rank among the age of the majority, it is highly likely I will continue calling her “Tink”. Hopefully, one day she too will realize that this is a mark of honour steeped with affection.