By Reba Phelps
1992 was an excellent year and it wasn’t because of the release of “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus or, “I’m too Sexy” by Right Said Fred.
I was a senior in high school that year and it was a monumental time in the Natchitoches Parish School system. Eighty or so students were going to have the distinct pleasure of graduating from the newly built and newly named, “Lakeview High School.” There was much fanfare that surrounded the event.
Dignitaries came. News media came from all directions filming us as we moved into the school in January of 1992. We did not even care that the smell of fresh paint was burning in our nostrils and random carpenters were still present finishing the final punch list.
Words could not describe how eager we were. The previous Campti High School was a torn and tattered collection of leaky portable buildings and a couple of dilapidated buildings that had seen their better days a few decades prior. We were about to be living like high school kings and queens in a castle trimmed in hunter green and orange.
The semester flew by as fast as the acid washed denim fad did. It was finally graduation day. The school was filled with family, friends and local elected officials. As each name was called there was a roar of applause and hooping that I am quite sure registered on the Richter Scale.
Finally, it was my turn to walk across the stage to collect the diploma that I wish I had worked so hard for. I am fairly certain that my parents and a host of educators were relieved that this overly friendly, yet always scheming student, was exiting stage left. I then heard the words that I had waited patiently for almost two hours to hear.
Jennifer Rebecca Procell.
I knew once they were finished pronouncing my name the applause would be deafening. But yet, it wasn’t. All I heard was crickets and the appliances running in the cafeteria down the hall.
But, when I stood up and began to walk I could literally hear people saying, “Oh yeah it’s Reba.” The applause wasn’t going to break the records that I had hoped for, but it was decent enough.
This, my friend, is precisely the problem with government names.
For my whole entire life people have asked where the name, “Reba”, originated. That was an easy answer as I was nicknamed after my maternal grandmother who passed away when my mother was seven. No, I was not named after Reba McEntire and certainly do not sing like her.
The name, “Jennifer Rebecca” has a much less sentimental value. It came from a diaper commercial in the 70’s that happened to be aired during my mother’s pregnancy. When it came to naming my own children I felt like it was my mission to give them a name that would not cause awkwardness when it was called in a doctor’s office or in public period. Spare them the pain of name confusion.
When my first child was born I researched the meanings of the few names that I liked. The name, “Meredith”, means leader and classy lady. I confess that her middle name was just popular at the time and, “Paige” just seemed to mesh well. Meredith Paige. And, the initials would be cute. MPP.
Not long after she was born I quickly began to regret not using family names. From that point on I decided that if I had additional children they would bear a hand me down name with loads of sentimental value.
Then Kathryn Rebecca Phelps entered the world. Kathryn was my mother-in-law’s name and of course, Rebecca came from me. My mother’s name had already been claimed by my niece. Kathryn’s name seemed beautiful enough but she always complains about the spelling of her name and her initials. KRP. She jokingly calls herself, “Kerp.”
Once she went to daycare she was quickly nicknamed “Kit-Kat” and it stuck. She is still Kit-Kat thirteen years later.
They say the person with many nicknames is loved by many. Do you have a nickname or a stage name as some would call it? Do you go by your first, middle or last name? With all of the fuss and muss over names and what to name children as soon as they are born, there is only one thing that matters.
There is someone who truly knows us not by name or account number but by the number of hairs on our head. He knows us by our heart and the fruit we bear. He created us and sent his son to die for us because he loved us so much. All I know is, I don’t care if the name Reba, Rebecca, Jennifer, Reebs, Jenny Rebecca, just my initials RP, Procell or Phelps is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I just want some resemblance of my many names on that roll that is called up yonder.
Unlike Beyonce, they don’t even really have to say my name…I will respond to a wink and a nod or a simple hand gesture! Just let me in those pearly gates when the time is right.
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. Luke 12:7