Standing in the bank, moving money around, I hear a voice, “Hey Pooh Bear”! I look over and see a 60 year old man, gray hair, lovely suit, waving at me on the far side of the bank lobby. He’s actually the bank president and he was my brother, Granger’s, buddy, forty five years ago. He’s a handsome bank president and he still calls me Pooh Bear. He gives me a big hug and for a warm moment I’m home again with my brother and all his friends. But Granger has been dead for almost a year. Still, I feel loved because he used my nickname.
Nicknames are a double edged sword.
By the time I turned 25 I despised being called Pooh Bear with a red hot lava like hatred. Now, when I hear Pooh Bear I just smile because I know it’s someone who knew my family and loved us. It’s a sweet sound.
When new friends use my old nickname it sounds wrong, almost offensive. If they weren’t part of the history and story they shouldn’t use the name. It’s not their story. Nicknames are personal, kind of like a secret handshake. If you aren’t part of the club you shouldn’t try to use it.
I have a cousin, handsome and smart guy named Daley. But growing up EVERYONE called him Bimbo. And I thought Pooh Bear was bad.
Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas my best friends when I was really little (4 to 7) were Pinky and Squampy. Pinky was probably 7 when I was 5 and Squampy was 3. Our moms ran in a local theater group, The Community Players.
One Friday evening,Pinky, Squampy and I were left alone, again, at the Community Players while our moms directed and stared in A Street Car Named Desire.
There was a tourist attraction next door to the theater,The Alligator Farm. It’s a little place with a lot of gators in shallow pools. But there was a big fat tree growing out of the parking lot and it stretched out across the gator pools.
While our moms were busy with Blanche and Stanley, Pinky convinced us to crawl out on the tree branch, over the alligator pools.
An hour later the adults started looking for us. We’d shimmied out on a thick branch and were staring at dozens of alligators. But Squampy, the youngest, was afraid to shimmy backwards, so we couldn’t get off the branch.
All three of us were clutching the phone pole sized branch, waiting to get eaten or for grown ups to find us. If I’d died that day the newspaper head line might have read “Alligator Eats Pooh Bear!”
Mary, my oldest daughter, is gorgeous now, but when she was little she was kind of silly looking. We called her Buddy Hackett (I swear she looked like him), and we called her Murry. Why Murry? Because when we went to the beach she refused to keep her top on. So we decided if we called her Murray, everyone would think she was a little boy.
Nicknames…they suck, they embarrass us, we hate them. But now, that I’m an adult and fairly confident, and feeling like I have nothing to prove, Pooh Bear doesn’t embarrass me. It makes me feel loved. Murray makes Mary laugh because she knows how beautiful she is and it’s a great story.
Once you grow up and figure out who you are, nicknames are pretty wonderful. They are part of your story. Pinky, Squampy and Biimbo, I still love you.
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