Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

     I write my blog posts on paper then edit, edit, edit before finally putting it online.  Today's post confused me a little when I reread it or maybe I'm more tired than I thought?  I apologize in advance for confusing anyone else who might read this.  It would would probably be easier to read if you had a chart to look at.  You have been warned.
    My mother was almost named Priscilla because my grandmother liked that name.  My mother said that she's glad that MaMa changed her mind and chose the name Phyllis instead.  My mother's younger sister was born a week before Christmas and was named Carol.
     My maternal grandmother chose names that she liked but her mother and the generations before named their children after parents and grandparents.  I had read about about babies who were given the same name as an older sibling who had died.  I have not come across this in my research, thank God.  I have enough brick walls as it is and don't need anymore confusion. 
     My maternal grandmother, Eleanor Frances was the eldest child born to Josephine (Duper) and Samuel George Davis.  MaMa was probably named after her paternal great-grandmother, Eleanor Sams who was her father's maternal grandmother.  I don't know much about my g-g-g-grandmother other than she was born in Vermont and was a Civil War widow.  My great-Uncle Danny, MaMa's younger brother was named after his paternal grandfather, Daniel J. Davis.  The next baby to come along for Josephine and Samuel was another son who they named after his daddy.  My great-Uncle Sammy had another ancestor named Samuel.His paternal grandmother, Eleanor Sam' husband, Samuel C. Braught was from Ohio and a casualty of the Civil War.  Dorothy Davis was born a few years after Sammy and it appears that she was not named after anyone else.  I guess my great-grandmother, Josie just liked the name.  My grandmother's baby brother, William Howard Davis was named after his paternal great-grandfather, William H. Davis from Milton,NY.

                                                  "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose
                                                        by any other name would smell as sweet"

     This is what Juliet said to Romeo back in the late 16th century.  Is this true?  Would my great-grandfather still have found himself in reform school at the age of 15 if his parents had named him John instead of Samuel?  and what about his son, Samuel (my great-uncle), would he still have been a war deserter and a bigamist if he had a different name?  I'm thinking that the name 'Samuel' might be unlucky when it comes to my family.  Maybe 'unlucky' is the wrong word to use.  I should probably say 'unfortunate'.
     Besides the Davis', my maternal grandfather had a dog named Sam and my brother's friend Sam lived with us for awhile.  The dog was a beautiful husky who had been abused.  My grandfather found him on the street with his side badly burnt.  I remember as a little girl watching my grandfather treat Sam's burn everyday until he was healed.  Sam was a good boy who often accompanied my grandfather to the local bar.  Sometimes my cousin and I went with him.  My grandfather had two favorite bars where he was a regular.  He was a truck driver for a brewery and liked his beer.  Sam used to sit outside the bar waiting patiently for his master until one day he was stolen.  We never saw Sam again.  Years later, when I returned from college, my teenage brother had a friend named Sam who had no place to live.  His mother walked out on the family and I don't know where his father was.  My mother let him stay with us and even enrolled him in a local school to get his G.E.D.  Sam was like family and stayed until my mother had a very bad accident then he moved out.  I guess he thought he was in the way.
     The name 'Samuel' is not a bad name or unlucky even in my family.  The unfortunate events in the lives of all my Sams could have been avoided.  If Samuel Davis wasn't a bad boy then he wouldn't have been sent to reform school.  His son could have been a faithful husband who served his country proudly instead of the war deserting bigamist he became.  My grandfather's dog would not have been stolen if his thirsty owner had left him home.  My brother's friend was a nice guy and overcame his dysfunctional childhood to become a responsible man.  My great-grandfather grew up to be a man despised by his own daughter.  According to my mother, MaMa never had anything positive to say about her father.
     Juliet was right.  "What's in a name?"  If my great-grandfather had been named John, he would still have been the same person.  We create our own luck.  We choose our destiny.

                               "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"  -Juliet Capulet


  1. I like how you tied your story to the quote, but consider this one from Anne of Green Gables: “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

  2. :) I've always wanted to read Anne of Green Gables. I might get to it one of these days.