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WHAT WAS THAT NAME AGAIN? MOTHERS' FORGOTTEN SURNAMES, LOST VALUES
Mothers are beloved to us, their daughters and sons.
But just on surname history alone, we can lose the gifts they bring.
The point is made so well in classical Arabic personal
names. For example, “Ibn Battuta” means “Son of Battuta.” Huh? What about the family
name of the other half of the partnership that brought little guy into life? In Arabic cultures it's common to name the son in the father's line of names.
Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) Traveller
See Permission Notice in footnote
However, Arabs could quickly point out that the loss of the
mother’s family name applies in European languages as well. Right they’d be.
Example: my father was named as Clarence Reeck, with no mention the family name
of his mother, Michel. And, of course, I have no idea of my grandmother's original family surname. I just know that she married into the Michel family.
(Frankly, I’d be more comfortable with her name, "Michel," than Reeck. Michel lacks the odorous connotations of Reeck. But Reeck (sometimes
spelled Reek) is multilingual. In German it connotes “odor” or “smoke”. I prefer "smoke." In
Scottish, it simply means “smoke.”)
We’ve just now see another example of loss of mother’s identity
through marriage. Candidate Trump is known by his father’s family name, “Trump.”
Someone in the family a couple of generations back showed true genius by changing the original family name,
Dumpf, to Trump. Why didn’t someone change my family name to Reeck to Reich or Rich? Tremendous improvements! the Donald would certainly say.
Point is: at
marriage, women traditionally have been held to join the husband’s family, including name switching.
I’d like to pull a couple of women out of my family closet and
place them in their maternal families. My mother was a Colburn, which was anglicized
in the U.S. from the German Kalkbrenner (translatable as “Lime Burner”. What
the heck is a lime burner? I don’t know. Is a lime burner a magician? I can't imagine burning lime.)
My grandmother Emma Colburn (Kalkbrenner), center, and my mother, Orleen, right. Me, left.
Setting: Tacoma, WA. Narrows Bridge
Did my mother have a withering glance? She was known
for that in her role as the front-desk school secretary. Supposedly she could
peer down over the counter at one of the pesky kids that a teacher might send
to her for discipline, and the kid would melt—just melt--on the spot.
She was also known as very loving, loyal, hard-working, and
musical. Many sides to her personality.
To me, she was the disciplinarian and also my least judgmental parent.
Dad (surnamed Reeck) was soft-hearted, very verbal, and a backyard farmer. Mom
was the flower gardener. . .
. . .and she was a life-long Republican.
However, when I ran for state
representative as a Democrat she raised money and voted for me. That is loyalty.
More name-loss history, switching to my wife's families. My wife’s mother’s name prior to her marriage was
Williams. A terrific name, running all the way back to the illustrious Roger
Williams, early civil rights hero and founder of Rhode Island. What a heritage
switch when Madell Williams married Frances and became a Wonderly.
Roger Williams Monument , Providence, Rhode Island.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
But maybe the switch was a gain
because Wünderlich (anglicized during registration at Staten Island to
Wonderly) is a widespread German name royal heritage.
Ach. . .why didn’t I take Lucy’s surname at
marriage? Probably we could claim our Bavarian castle.
Mothers bring truly great gifts and attributes to any culture—Asian,
African, European, and other—and yet they surrender the source of their
personal histories when they marry. So I want to be intentional and give thanks for my Colburn and Michel
mothers, grandmothers, and further back into history. I give thanks for my
wife’s Williams family and Wonderly mothers and grandmothers, and the gifts they brought into the present, rescued from history’s haze.
Fête des Mères
Image in public domain
I ask you: on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016. I wonder how far back you
can name your maternal heritage and values. Make a list of the values you’ve
inherited from that line of women. You’ll join me in gratitude and praise of
mothers--your mothers. I'm sure of it.
[In my Saturday postings I cover many aspects of social values
and social ethics. Thank you for reading and especially for sharing with
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Ibn Battuta image reproduction notice: Approval for the use of this photo can be found at Dubai Construction Update Part 7 Page 12 at Post 223. Imre Solt's exact statement is: "I, Imre Solt, put all my images found on the Dubai Construction Update sites on the GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License). I agree to the terms that my images may be freely redistributed and used, that they may be freely modified (and modified versions may also be freely redistributed and used), that any redistribution must include the full text of the GFDL itself, that the work (and modified versions of it) must be attributed to me (the creator), and that the images can be re-used for commercial purposes (as long as the use is under the terms of the GFDL and that the full text of the GDFL goes along with the work). I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw from this agreement." He gave this statement on 17 August 2007.