Friday, August 13, 2010

Nicknames, Part 1

I was full of anticipation on the way to my softball coach's house for our pre-season sleepover because I was going to get a nickname.  That's right, my coach had promised that he would personally select a nickname for each of the girls on our team, and I could not wait to hear what mine would be.  Let's face it, whether you're in the sixth grade or not, everyone wishes they had a really cool nickname.

So, after an evening of pizza and fun, the time came for the nickname bestowing ceremony.  All of us girls gathered around our coach as he pulled a little notebook out of his pocket.  I will never forget the air of expectancy he created in the room.  It was exactly like being on a reality show, if those had existed in 1991.  He would call a girl's name, look her straight in the eye, then pause dramatically (wait for it, wait for it) before reading off her awesome new nickname.  And they were awesome!  Chipmunk...Spanky...the list went on.  By the time he called my name, I could barely breathe from excitement. This was going to be good, I just knew it.

"Gretchen......your nickname is.......Gretch."

Wait, what?!  That was my fabulous new nickname?  Everyone else was going to be called something new and exciting, and I was just going to be called my regular old name with the last two letters lobbed off?  My face immediately fell from utter disappointment.  Even at eleven, I found this lack of creativity to be glaringly obvious.

Besides, this was the same nickname that got me in trouble in Kindergarten all those years ago.  Remember how you used to have to write your name over and over on that big lined paper as a grade?  Well, I distinctly remember when my desk buddy, Bethany, wrote her name on the paper as simply Beth.  Wanting to make sure she wasn't just being lazy, my teacher approached her and asked, "Is this what your family calls you at home?"  And she said yes (although I still maintain she was just being lazy because I never heard anyone call her that and I sat beside her all day long).

The next time I was assigned the task of repeatedly writing my name, this conversation popped up in my head, and I decided to write my name as Gretch.  Because that is what my family called me at home, and my teacher had pretty much stated that this was acceptable, right?  Wrong.  The paper was returned with every "Gretch" marked wrong.  And, the teacher never even came over to ask me if this was what I went by at home. What, did she think I just suddenly forgot how to spell my own name?  Granted, I had only learned how to spell it a short time before, but I just don't make mistakes like that, even as a five-year-old.  Hmmph.

In the end, every time I was up to bat at a softball game and I heard cheers of "C'mon, Gretch!" and "Go Gretch!" echoing from the dugout, I felt lucky to have any nickname at all.  Because no matter how unoriginal it was, it was mine.

Now, if only my Kindergarten teacher had been there to hear.

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