What’s in a name?
September 16, 2005
As luck goes, I titled this column last Friday. Alas, the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times trumped me and reinvigorated this coined question, heading it “What’s in a name, Katrina?”
Yes, I have a daughter with a famous hurricane name. Some people now are pondering the relevance of the question, “What’s in a name?”
Plenty. It is the you of life. I’ve had an abundance of names. My two older brothers affectionately called me Scrabrangle and Ratsnag. Perhaps that’s why my mom coined the nickname Betsy for me.
My given name is Elizabeth. But alas, at the brink of turning 30 and wanting to be somewhat chic like the gals on “Sex and the City,” I gave in to my given name and nixed Betsy altogether. (Of course, to this day, I have no control over the use of Scrabrangle and Ratsnag. Brothers have special powers with regard to usage.)
So now I am just shy of 40 and of course, desiring youth. Will the entire valley coin me a lunatic if I choose to reclaim my name, Betsy?
I can tell you that my husband will be calling the nearest hotline for men whose wives are in an identity crisis. Is there even such a help-line? Or am I alone in this crazy name game?
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First, let me explain the further complications to my change. Beyond the big change from Betsy to Elizabeth, I forgot to foresee the fact that soon after my awakening to wanting to be all grown-up, I would fall in love and get married within the same year.
Being a traditionally raised Midwestern girl, I assuredly took my husband’s last name, Chicoine.
So there you have it. One lost identity. First and last name all changed, gone.
But why bother you all with this nonsensical past of a foolish girl? Perhaps to add validity to much that I’ve been writing for our valley papers for over a year.
To answer some whisperings, yes, I am Betsy Heninger. I am proud of what I accomplished as a teacher in this valley. I never mentioned earlier in my columns the past connection that I taught for nine years in Eagle County School District RE50J.
A wise woman pointed out to me that one complaint with a previous education column that I wrote was my lack of disclosure that I was a teacher here, in our schools. She is one of those women of nine lives, journalist, film-maker, counselor, mom, truly brilliant and humble, woven into one fabric.
My piece on the school district’s Milken plan, our performance pay structure, would have held more validity if I had disclosed my full identity.
So here you have it. I was trying to avoid being arrogant, self righteous, a know-it-all. My background is not journalism. I would call it a degree from a fine college of thought in the West, a “liberal arts think tank.” Questioning was welcomed at my college, but in the same sense, one had to be prepared for the responses.
So here I stand before my wise girlfriend, feeling rather naked. I am hearing your response.
And in doing so, I am reclaiming a bit of whom I once was, what I so earnestly strived for in regard to Eagle County RE50J, and what I can do now for our schools.
First, I can offer my past. I lived and breathed my job. I loved working at a small school on the east end of our valley, Red Sandstone.
How I ended up there was in full part thanks to those two brothers who deemed me as Scrabrangle and Ratsnag in my younger years.
They were actually hard acts to follow intellectually. Yet it is their knowledge that helped me to arrive in Vail. From Dallas, to Colorado, and on to Italy, my brothers stood by as I somehow still graduated from college within four years. But even still in a hurry, I gained my master’s in elementary education within 18 months, without taking off even a week from my Bachelor of Arts.
Finally, my oldest brother sat me down and said, “You can live
anywhere, do anything. Circle on a map where you want to go.”
And as you see today, the rest is history. I wanted to live and teach in Vail. I went to a job fair in Greeley and here I am today.
My family supported me (my mom and sister paid my first, last month’s rent, deposit) and I had my start.
With all that I’ve answered in my life, some questions still linger. Who am I, and what’s in a name? I am Betsy, Elizabeth, Heninger, and Chicoine. My family still calls me Betsy, among some other choice names.
Watch for my turning 40 column in the spring, 2006. I think I want to be Betsy just one more time!
Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.