THE STORY OF A NAME
I love my name – first and last. I like the way it sounds, I like the way it’s not so unusual I was beaten up as a kid, and yet not so common that every second person has it (although, someone already had the email firstname.lastname@example.org before I did. Hello, whoever you are!!), and I’m really enamored of the fact that my parents didn’t go with Penelope, which, as family lore had it, is what they were STRONGLY considering. And, because I am a storyteller, I suppose I adore it because both parts of my name, come with a story.
As child number six, I can only imagine how exhausted my parents were by all aspects of parenting a newborn – especially one determined to make her arrival during the Christmas season (what can I say, I just couldn’t miss out on that fir tree smell!!!). So, maybe, that is why they turned to my mother’s mother on advice on what to name me. Nanny, which is what we called her, was Eugenie Julia Menna Mcketney, and while many people have grandmothers that are plump, and bake cookies, I was not one of them. By the time I was born, my grandmother had been a widow for a LONG time, and seemed to enjoy every second of it. She travelled to exotic lands like DISNEY WORLD, had friends that on Christmas day, did not bring gingerbread cookies, but fortune cookies, and had, until late in her eighties, as an ex-boyfriend of mine put it “GREAT legs!!”
Nanny was from that mythical land called “The Islands”, and had the music of the Caribbean in her voice. Her tales of giant bugs , and “black magic” from the tropical land she came from, frankly, freaked me out, and I don’t suppose it’s any coincidence that I have never been to any island that is outside those found in the NYC Metropolitan area. In her sing-song voice, her first name, Eugenie, was pronounced U-Jen-E, a lyric word that sounded like the warm waters from my grandmother’s homeland. But, in regular old American, it was a much harsher sounding word: U-Jean-EE – the moniker of an ancient lady, who wore moth eaten sweaters, with cream corn dribbled on her shirt. So, luckily, wanting to spare me from being a senior citizen well before my time, they went with Nanny’s middle name – dropping the “A” because she hated it. And so, I became Julie.
Now, if this were a folktale, I’d say that at that moment my die was cast, my fate determined, my life’s path laid before me at my feet. For the name Julie means youthful, and considering I grew to be a woman much more in touch with her inner child, than her outer adult, it fits me like the proverbial glove (or mitten – one of those knit stripped ones, with the clasps that connect to your coat sleeve, so you won’t lose them – see, inner child rules even in this!!) You know sometimes you might say that somebody “looks” like their name – “She LOOKS like an Olivia, don’t you think??” Well, I don’t know what anyone sees when they look at me, but I can tell you straight up, that I FEEL like a Julie. Never in a million trillion years would I change my name. (Maybe for a million trillion dollars – because, come on, I’m not stupid!!) Especially in combination with the most fascinating thing about me – my last name!!!
PASQUAL, no E at the end, please – I’m not Italian. No C instead of the Q, I’m not French (or whatever language spells a name that way). You say it PASS – QUALL – second part like the word for a sudden storm, which is what you get from me if you dare to assume I changed my name when I got married. LOVE, ADORE, ADMIRE, and CHERISH my husband, though I sincerely do, I am NOT Mrs. James Whelan. Jimmy being, well, Jimmy, replied, when I said I wasn’t going to change my name, “I never expected you to.” (See why I LOVE, ADORE, and CHERISH!!!) Nope, Julie Pasqual is who I will always be, and here is why – it is COMPLETELY FICTIONAL!!!
Now, what I’m about to tell you is 100% true – though you may think I read it in one of the many folktale anthologies I own. My grandfather on my father’s side, was left, as a baby, on a doorstep in Venezuela!!! REALLY – it’s TRUE!!! He was raised by a Dutch family who’s last name was Hobart, and, as a young man joined the Merchant Marines. One fine day, he jumped ship in New York City, and took the name Vincent Pasqual. Why??? NO ONE KNOWS!!! He married, had my dad, and died well before I was born. The kicker is, my father – the history buff, NEVER asked: why Vincent Pasqual? Why a distinctly Italian name?? Was he walking by an Italian restaurant, and his love of garlic made him want to be from the country shaped like a cool high heel boot? (Which I would totally understand, by the way – a day without garlic, is a day without sunshine, as far as I’m concerned!)
And even more interesting for me – why did he jump ship??? Was he an outlaw on the run?? Was he like Emil De Beque, from the musical “South Pacific”, who fled his homeland for a secluded island after – in his words, “I killed a man. He was a bad man. A bully. Everyone was glad to see him go.” Or, was the lure of NYC too much for young Vincent – or whatever his first name was then (again – Grandfather, I couldn’t agree more – I HEART NYC!!!) Whatever it was that made him, virtually become another person, I’m glad he did. Nothing against Venezuela, or the name Hubert, but being a native New Yorker named Pasqual, suits me to a tee.
I have my father’s easy going nature, and my mother’s energy, but I also have the ever buoyant quality of youth, that I feel was bestowed upon me by the woman who’s tales from “the islands” I still try to live up to in my own storytelling. And from my grandfather, a man I never met, I have a story for the ages, in the form of my last name.