Saturday, February 11, 2017

Unexpected Lesson from a 2nd Grade Memory

From Jody Feldman

 For about 20 hours, I’ve been struggling with which of two names I should choose for my title character. She’s been going by one name for months, but now that I’m almost ready to launch into some serious writing, I’m not sure that’s the right name.

Part of the reason? Two days ago, another name came out. The new one, I realized, is actually her given name, but when she was born 11 3/4 years ago, her older brother morphed it into a word available to his 2-year-old vocabulary. And it stuck. Cute, right? It does often happen. But which of the two should be her name in the title? Should I drop the cute one? Or have her family call her by the cute name and have everyone else use her given name?

A person can obsess for only so long before it becomes annoying. Fifteen minutes ago, I became annoying. I needed to shift gears and write this blog post. The monthly theme: 2.  Which 2 should I write about?

Two names. No. Stop it!

What else is two? Conjoined cinnamon rolls? Two peas in a pod? 2 YY U R; 2 YY U B; I C U R 2 YY 4 me? Someone signed that in my 6th grade yearbook, and if it were June, I could write about 6th grade. But it’s February, and sticking to theme, I’d need to write about 2nd. But who remembers 2nd grade?


Not Miss Brooks/Mrs. Kurz, not exactly.
 What did I remember from 2nd grade? Only one thing. Our teacher, the very disciplinary Miss Brooks. Even with her harsh tone of voice, I didn’t want her to leave us to get married and go on her honeymoon. How terrifying! Even worse, hurtling toward me like a big black hole of nothingness? My first substitute teacher! For a full week! If I survived that, there’d be another scary change; our teacher would have a new name, Mrs. Kurz. That was not the same gentle sound as Miss Brooks. Would she get meaner? Yell more?

As I relived the memory, I had to laugh. Who knew that scary week in 2nd grade would inform my work? When Miss Brooks/Mrs. Kurz returned, she was just the same. Her name didn’t define her. Similarly, my title character’s name won’t define her.

Both of her names are odd, but as readers—as people actually—we accept whatever name our new friends go by. And if my character accepts her name as part of her, we, as readers, will feel just the same.

(But I might still obsess until I decide.)

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