I always wanted a big family and I have one—eight children with an ever-expanding third generation of grandchildren. I couldn’t be happier. My life is fulfilled and joyous. but having such a large family presents one problem—at least for me—getting the names right!

This was a busy household with all my kids and half the neighborhood in and around this old house. It’s been a long-standing joke that mom had to go through a whole list of names to get the right kid—if she ever did. It was always “Adam, Josh, Chad, Ricky—whoever you are, come here!” Now, we sit around the dining room table and laugh about days gone by when my kids were young. They invariably joke about the years when I included our dog, Sparky, in my litany of names, even after he died.

I was always embarrassed about this. It makes me look rather stupid or forgetful especially since my husband never had this problem. Mark got their names right the first time every time. But then he always had a fatherly, stern face as though what he was going to say was measured and thoughtful, like he had rehearsed his soliloquy in his mind before he said it. In fact, often times he didn’t have to say a name at all. He’d just look across the room with those glaring eyes and set jaw and the kid, whoever he was, knew instantly he was in trouble.

I never had the luxury of time to pre-think anything. I had multi-tasking down to a fine art. Talking to someone or even scolding them came when I was doing something else i.e. helping with homework while washing dishes, changing diapers while yelling at a kid for NOT doing their homework. I was always in a hurry and spewing a whole list of names proved expedient. There were times I’d resort to calling everyone “honey” to eliminate any frustration on both our parts.

Much to my chagrin, my penchant for getting names wrong followed me to the workplace. After twenty-five years of mothering, I went back to work and became a supervisor at a homecare agency that employed nurses as well as social workers, most of whom were a lot younger than me. There I was, spewing a list of names again—“Kari, Gladys, Jenny, Brian—whoever you are, can I speak with you, please?” How humiliating! Most of my co-workers took it in stride, but I received an occasional pointed glare from time to time.

I always prided myself that I am a much better writer than a talker. I recently received a copy of one my novels, The Bone Pile: The High Cost of Valor. With much self-congratulatory delight, I opened the book and began leafing through the pages. To my horror, there—right in the middle of a dramatic scene with significant impact on the plot of the story, I used the wrong name! How could I have been so stupid, I asked myself. Since I found a few other editing issues and I wasn’t happy with the cover of the book anyway, I arranged to re-publish the book.

To may everlasting shame, it seems that old habits have re-surfaced or I should say, remained and I must remind myself often to pay more attention to people’s names. But then, someone who was a much better writer than I will ever be, wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yes, my children, perhaps I get your names wrong sometimes but I don’t mean to sound  superfluous or unkind. I love you, no matter what I call you. And honestly, you usually knew who I was talking to before I said anything anyway.

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