What is a name? Webster’s dictionary defines the word name as a noun, a word or set of words by which a person is known, addressed, or referred to. My father told me when I was in elementary school that he named me Trisha Mays and that is what people should call me. He also told me not to answer to anything other than my name. So since that’s what my father said, that is the way it has always been.
I was named after my mother, Patricia Ann Hatchett Mays. As the story was told to me, my family thought I was going to be a boy, and I was to be named after my grandfather, Booker. Although this was before sonograms, my family was so certain, they did not think of a girl name. It turned out they were wrong, and my father had to come up with a name for my birth certificate while my mother was still in recovery. And he chose Trisha, which was the name that my mother had gone by as a child growing up in Newport. As far as Newport residents go she is Tricia, and I am still lil Trish. So if you are from Newport or over the age of 60, I won’t correct you if you call me Trish. But anyone else will always get a friendly reminder that my name is Trisha….with an A.
I was reminded of what my father told me about my name when I read Alex Haley’s Roots for the first time with my Granny when I was 12. I read about how even though Kunta Kinte was stolen from his land, his family, and his life in Africa and sold into slavery across an ocean in America, he always remembered the name his family gave him when he was born. Kunta Kinte was given a new name, an American name, Toby. He always remembered and knew that his name was Kunta Kinte. How important my name is was one of the key points I took from reading Roots the first time. I tell my son that the first gift he was given by his parents was his name. I tell him that his name is who he is, who he was, and is the one thing that will be with him always and forever.
So you can understand my delight when I discovered how many of my ancestors had been named for other relatives. It lets me know that names have always been important in our family for many generations. I have discovered three consecutive generations of women named Lela. My father was named after his grandfather. His sister was named after their grandmother. My brother named all of his sons after men and women in our family. My son has a name of a man from each side of his family.
Your name is more than letters put together to make a word. Many times people will see your name before they actually meet you in person. Your name will eventually tell a story to those who know you and have been a part of your life. Discovering my past sometimes means looking at my present. Learning about my family and their names help tell me a story about them and their lives. And this is why my journey continues….