“Name Calling,” July 18, 2017

What do people call you? Not when they’re mad. What do they call you when they want to tell you who you are to them?

Readers often begin notes to me with an apology: “I’m sorry if I seem too personal addressing you by your first name,” they say, “but I feel as if I know you personally.”

I love that. I often feel as if I know them personally, too. As a columnist, I write about things I care about. If someone connects with that writing, I like to think it’s because they care about those things, too. We may not know each other’s faces. But we know each other’s hearts. To me, that’s as personal as personal ever gets.

I’ve been called lots of names in my lifetime. Some of them I’ve liked better than others.

My dad always called me his “baby,” even after I had babies of my own. I liked that a lot.

In school on the playground, the boys called me “Bird Legs.” I thought it was because I could run fast. Then one of them said, no, it was because I was skinny.

“I might be skinny,” I said, “but I can outrun you.” He didn’t argue with that.

In my teen years, my mother called me “Go” because I was, as she said, always on the run. It was not a term of affection.

In college, when I was elected dorm president, I found the duties were far less glamorous than the title, which wasn’t that glamorous to begin with. But I will admit I rather liked being called “Madam President.”

In my first job as a reporter, I was sometimes referred to (by editors who assigned me to write obituaries or interview people near the end of their days) as the “angel of death.”

On the paper’s softball team, I batted twice, got a hit and struck out. Batting .500, I chose to quit while I was ahead. Instead of batting, I brought cookies. And 20 years later, old teammates still call me “Snacks.”

One of the names that I liked least of all turned out to be one of my favorites. From the day we met, when I was 4, my stepfather called me “Granny.” He said I was like an old woman always worrying about other people’s business. I didn’t care much for that name, or for him, at first. But in time, I came to love them both.

I remember the last time I saw him. We’d had a hard spell in our family, losing to cancer, one after another, my mother, my first husband and my brother’s wife. Now my stepfather was in the final stages of lung cancer.

“Granny,” he said, as I hugged him goodbye, “you’re mighty good at taking care of people. But I want you to take care of yourself, too, you hear?”

I heard him clearly, even if I don’t always listen as I should.

What is my favorite name that I am called now? I’d say it’s a three-way tie: My kids call me “Mom” or “Mama.” My grandkids call me “Nana.” And my husband, in a good mood, calls me “Hummingbird.” I answer to those every time.

Then, of course, there’s this. One night when my grandson Henry was 2, I held him in my arms and pointed to the sky. “Look, Henry,” I said, “there’s the moon. Do you see it?”

He grinned his Henry grin, pointed up to heaven and whispered, “Nana’s moon!”

For a moment, I could swear the moon was grinning, too.

Henry is older now, almost 6. We were driving one night not long ago when suddenly from the backseat he shouted, “Look, Nana! There’s your moon!”

I nearly ran off the road. “I can’t believe you still call it my moon,” I said, laughing.

“Sure, Nana,” he said. “You’re the queen of the moon!”

Getting old isn’t easy. Henry and his cousins know this, and they are trying their best to keep me young. As my grandmother might say, it’s worth waking up each day just to see what those little toads will do and say next.

Call me what you will. I won’t mind at all. I am Nana, Queen of the Moon.



  1. Teresa Pedk says

    By the time you reach my age you will have been called many names and the funniest one now comes to mind. I once had an Irish setter named Scarlet and we would often go for walks around the neighborhood and also often pass the home of a little boy who was happy to say hello to me an dd to Scarlet. Sometime later he came to our door asking for a donation for something and when my husband opened the door there stood my little friend asking, “Can I speak to Scarlet’s mother?”

  2. I would call you angel. And you are a loving soul who can write real stories so beautifully. They inspire each person in the family and those who love reading can read them free of cost on your web site. Still thinking the day when I read a post in Reporter. It took me 5 minutes to write each letter correctly and your site was there with blog. I read many posts in few days and I am regular reader since 2014. Then you had to stop for few days. I was so sad as no other reading filled the vacuume. Thank you so very much, hope your foot has healed. It takes longer to get back in shape. But you did not stop writing. And I did not stop reading except when I was having bad eyes. Sending good wishes for all family. Love

  3. Mary-Jo Martinsen says

    Love you, Girl!

    You got me thinking. Thanks for bringing back some memories.

    My name is Mary Jo. I was about 2 when an adult friend started calling me MJ. I liked it. And it’s pretty much stuck for a lifetime. And, of course, using my whole name(Mary Josephine Martinsen! Accent on -phine) meant I was in trouble.

    In early teen years, I had a really, really good-looking boyfriend for a while. He called me Ug (short for ugly). I was by no means ugly. I didn’t like it, but I liked him. I saw him years later, and he was a fat ugly guy. Ha, ha on him. Cuz I’m still not ugly.

    When I married my second husband and moved in with him and his son, the boy was conflicted about what to call me. I let him decide. He came up with MJsy. Loved it. Still do.

    Mama, my namesake, was called Jo. I was never to be Jo. Okay. I was sometimes JoJo. And a dear one calls me Josie, which Mama hated as a child. I don’t.

    Yep. It all depends on who’s doing the calling.

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. Chery Sackett says

    Well, I have one for the books! My grandson, Caleb, started calling me ‘Other Grandma’ when he was about 3. Curious to get to the bottom of this I asked my daughter why he called me that? Apparently, if they said they were going to grandma’s, he would ask, “grandma and grandpa’s?” No the other grandma’s. So he started calling me Other Grandma. He would even pray, “Thank you, God, that we can be here at Other Grandma’s house.” I love it, though. Sometimes I get some strange looks at being called that name. This kid is so precious I don’t care what he calls me!

  5. Gloria Wagner Surber says

    I have enjoyed your column for years. Since we are about the same age, it seems that I can relate to a lot of your life experiences. I loved the column on nicknames. My name is Gloria but when I was little, my family called me Goey because they said I was ready to go with anyone who came by! I still love to travel–mostly to Ireland, these days. Keep writing, Sharon, Queen of the Moon!

  6. debbie bjorklund says

    Hi Sharon, just read your column on names. Love your columns! Last December my five year old grandson was staying with me for the weekend. On Saturday, I was a greeter for our church Christmas program. I am 65, so with what I have to work with now days, I thought I looked okay with makeup, hair and a dress. I came out of the bedroom, and Bryant said, ” Grandma, you look like Pinnochio”. I said, “why do you think Grandma looks like Pinnochio”? Then the innocent said,” you know Pinnochio is a puppet and the man moves his strings and makes the lines on his mouth move? You have lines on your face like Pinnochio! I called my daughter to tell her, and she didn’t think it was nearly as funny as Grandma. In fact, she said she is going to have botax if he tells her that!! I thought, just wait until you are a Grandma and you will think it is funny!

  7. Ron and Benita Cole says

    We absolutely loved you column today, Nana, Queen of the Moon.

  8. Davey Myers says

    Hi Sharon! I received a text message from my Grandson the other day. He started it out with “Hey Babe”. Not sure I ever liked it before but from this sweet boy? Well, he does know the way to my heart. Along with the best hugs in the world. We are so blessed aren’t we! Hope you are all well. ?

  9. Sharon Starns says

    My parents called me “Missy”. Most people thought it was a nickname for Melissa, but it wasn’t. It was short for “Little Miss Priss” because apparently, when I was just a toddler, I was a bit of a prissy little girl. Now, the only person who calls me Missy is my aunt, my Dad’s little sister. I’d give an awful lot to hear either my Mom or Dad call me Missy, even if they were scolding me!

  10. Elaine Mccaffery says

    Another good read for me! Every week I look forward to what’s to come. What’s in your thoughts, and in your heart, I love it. I too; , am mom,Grammy ,and a lot of sweet names my significant other calls me. But the one I miss the most is Jake, what my dad always called me. I hated it when I was young, but now that he’s no longer here; ( even though we weren’t terribly close) , Id do anything to hear someone call me that again. Funny, there was five of us kids,I sometimes wondered because I was a middle child that he couldn’t remember my name. Guess I was just glad he called me at all.

  11. Mary Ann Davis says

    I’m Sweet Mama to my five grandgirls, their friends, and their parents. I love it.

  12. Debby Brown says

    I find myself always waiting for your column every week & this week was no exception. I so agree that it’s so important to cherish the names others know us by. When my first grandchild was still in the womb, my youngest son asked me what I wanted to be called. Since he had no preference, & since I’d lost my own mama back in ’89, I told him I’d be honored to be called “Mema,” the same name he called my mama. Well, 11 years & five children spread across both my sons I’m called Mema quite a bit & it thrills my heart. Hearing them call me so often reminds me of my children calling on mama & it makes the world a little better place for a few minutes. Life is good.

  13. Kate Sciacca says

    So adorable ….your highness ? Not sure why my dad called me Boomer, but he did, and I loved it. My two dearest friends (one is looking down on me now) called me “8”…. but I guess the favorite now is grandma, granny and granny mountains…especially coming from those sweet little voices. Nothing better.

  14. I love,your posts they are so up lifting! Thank you.

  15. You did it. You made me cry, Queen of the Moon. Precious.

Speak Your Mind