What’s in a Name?

February 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

‘Lois’ wasn’t Mother’s first choice for my middle name. Aunt Lois Glass and her sister Eloise not only shared a dorm suite with Mom at Baylor University, but a passion for missions, as well. Lois and Eloise were missionary kids (MKs) from China, and destined to return as missionaries.

Fast forward to 1943 and the world is at war. Missionaries Eloise and Baker James Cauthen refugee out of China with their children and back to the US shortly before or after Pearl Harbor in 1941. Aunt Lois isn’t so lucky. She and her father and step-mother are interned by the Japanese in the infamous Shantung Compound in north China.

While preparing for my birth Mother decided that if I were to be a girl, she would name me Mary for her mother Mary Ollie and her grandmother Mary Vanettie (she always hated her unconventional name, Jester Buena!). She chose Eloise for my middle name in honor of her friend.

MLS at 1 - my only baby photo

No offense to the Eloises of the world, but I will be forever grateful to the Japanese for repatriating Aunt Lois and her parents in the fall of 1943, along with a boatload of other civilians, in exchange for Embassy and Consulate personnel. Aunt Lois arrived in Texas shortly before I did and I was henceforth called Mary Lois … MLS when Mother had to call me a second time!

‘Mary Lois’ is not the most usual combination of names. I’ve met only six others in my life, no matter the spelling. Double names are common in the south, but being called by both is a personal choice. The fact that at family gatherings there are also a Mary Alyce (aunt), Mary June (cousin) and a Mary Ann (second cousin) in attendance may be responsible, but for me it’s also a distinction.

I may be a bit too proud of its ‘U’ (unusualness) factor, but I like to think I am similar to my name … not a usual combination.

I enjoy meeting people, and can ‘small talk’ and tell stories with anyone. But although I enjoy social occasions, I’m not a social being. In first grade, when Mother didn’t have time to be the Brownie Troupe leader and I lost my spot, I think I was secretly relieved. I refused to join a social sorority in high school and never pledged one in college, although I had opportunities.  

I’m not a great ‘best friend forever’, and have lost contact with friends over the years as a result. This doesn’t seem to bother me much, and I’m quite adept at entertaining myself. When I was the lone single female on the faculty at Texas A& I University in Kingsville, I often took myself to Corpus Christi to the movies and dinner, good book in hand, of course. When the world crashes in, I tend to cash out … finding alone time enticing and invigorating.

I’m independent and enjoy working alone. I can work in groups, but sometimes get frustrated with the process. I like helping people when I think I can. But I sometimes wonder if I’m being intrusive when I do. This makes me sit back and observe others rather than joining the fray right off the bat. My writing buddies may find this a strange confession, if confession it be. This is the one ‘group’ I absolutely have no trouble building connections with … we must all be lone eagles, just needing to touch base with like-minded other lone eagles from time to time.

I take pride in striving for best work and expect others to do the same … maybe a bit too much? Professionally, I think people either see me as having a lot of confidence in my abilities or that I’m too sure of myself. But personally, I’m not always … in either case.

I like to call myself the well-adjusted, middle child, but sometimes wonder what that means. I admit that some things I do because they are expected, even though I’d rather not, but then we all do that, don’t we? Or maybe that’s the PK in me that demands it. I never rebelled against the expectations as my brother did, nor chafed under them as my sister seemed to do. That I take after my father in temperament is evident to me in that I don’t like confrontations and avoid them whenever possible.

Some days I wonder if I wouldn’t have made a good recluse, but then I’m off to play golf or do Disney. Consider this the shameless ‘self-reveal’. I probably won’t do it quite so blatantly again!

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§ 5 Responses to What’s in a Name?

  • Lovadell French says:

    Mary Lois, your reveal suggested we had so much in common. Perhaps, it is the Creative Soul, that I find in Writers and other Arts; the abilty to be social, but that inner core that must have it’s introspective withdrawal into the protective self.
    I too am a middle child, given I find to the above, but also need to be a caregiver/teacher. Thank you, I enjoyed. Lovadell (Dell French)

  • http;//slowdancejournal.wordpress.com says:

    I didn’t meet my first other Adrian until I was in high school. Although she spelled hers, “Adrienne” I still resented her. I wanted to be the one and only. I have always liked being left handed because it too makes me feel unusual. And maybe what gives us the courage to write is the notion that we have something to say that no one else has thought of, or at least a new way of saying it.

    Something must give us the courage to yell, “Look at me! Look at me!” in unequivocal black on white.

    Adrian Fogelin

  • Always fascinating to learn the story behind a person’s name. Thanks for the reveal!

  • Claudette Parmenter says:

    Interesting background to your name. Enjoyed the read. Reminded me of my third grade class in upstate N.H. There were four “Claudette’s” in my class! Chalk it up to living in a French Canadian community, ha. My dad always called me “Coco” and the secret got out while I was in H.S. However after I started getting paid to publish some articles I wrote, I decided Coco, didn’t sound very professional, so here I am back to using Claudette. 🙂

  • Growing up in Savannah, there were no other “Leigh’s” in the city. Each year on the first day of school, I would inevitably be put on the boy’s roll call. It was horribly embarrassing to my skinny, knock-kneed self to have to stand up next to all those boys and explain, but I guess it could have been worse; my mother’s first choice in names was Charise. Fortunately she discovered that was the name of an English girdle maker and passed on it in the nick of time.
    I’m so glad to have found your blog, Mary Lois. In revealing yourself with such honesty, you open us all to our universal humanness. Don’t stop!

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