infinite regression

scaryI heard from an old friend yesterday. She called me Freddie.

For the first eighteen years–no matter how long I live, it will be the first half of my life–that was who I was.

Hearing that name again, I know that something precious changed–if not broken then distorted, sadly bent so it no longer fit–when I left for college and, yielding to the assumption and pretense of maturity, I struggled and never quite succeeded to morph into Fred.

What ever became of the primordial Freddie all these years so grievously abandoned?

To hear someone dear refer to that part of me she remembers and I have forgotten, long smothered under the facade of adulthood, Lost Boy now at 60, bereft with pain of memories half-willingly abandoned, so very many others agonizingly simply gone–altered unrecognizably by change of heart beyond calling back…

Freddie almost brought Fred to tears.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oh, how I can relate. I can date friends by what they call me. My mother and all her friends called me Virginia Ann, always both names. My school friends dropped the Ann and called me only Virginia. When my circle of friends became artisans, they morphed my name into Gin. A few of them, all males for some reason, call me Ginny. But unlike you, I cringe when I hear Virginia Ann or Virginia, most likely because I didn’t care much for the person those names represent. I’m far more at ease with the person Gin has become. 🙂 But you are so right that first-named-person cannot be called back. In my case, I’m glad.

  2. In general, the addition of a long-e sound to a person’s name produces a diminuitive form. Thus, as a feminist, I have long lamented the over-use of women’s names ending with a long-e sound. Somehow, it doesn’t seem “appropriate” for a man’s name to end with the long-e sound. Such endings (in my mind’s ear) should go away with short pants!
    That said, it is certainly understandable how you could become nostalgic upon hearing your childhood name. Bittersweet.

  3. Oh, were you missing your lost youth? I know that feeling. My nickname ends in the ‘e’ sound and I have always preferred it to my proper name. I can see how it would bring a feeling of nostalgia to you, though. I would only want to be young again if I could retain my learning up to this point.

  4. Oh, how our names evolve. I was “Bill” or “Billy” for part of my youth because my first name is “William.” But when I entered high school, there was already a Bill Thompson so I started going by Doug. The rest is history. If someone yelled out “hey Bill” now I wouldn’t even turn my head.

  5. Fred(die)

    My Nanny called me Robbie – it is my all but secret love name. I was called Robert in corporate life and when my wife is cross with me she too calls me Robert.

    I am known as Rob now – but Robbie remains the name that I wish one or two I love the most to call me – I know that if my dog could speak that is what he would call me

    Traditional cultures know that names are important and that one name is not enough.

    My Godson is now Fred but when we was young and sweeter I called him Freddie. Maybe when he is really gown up – he won’t mind me calling him Freddie again – if I should live that long

  6. As a young Jimmy that became an old Jim, and was always officially a James, I can emphathize. I made the mistake of applying for a Social Security card at a very young age with the name Jimmy in order to open a savings account. I’ll probably never get it straightened out with the SSA and that savings account many years ago will cost me a fortune in time if not money.

  7. I can relate to how you feel about your name. My childhood nickname ended in an ‘e’, so for the same reasons that Cop Car outlined, I went back to the non-diminutive form of my name so that my career prospects will get better. My sociology professor made a point of telling his female students that no one would want to hire us if we sent in resumes with names like Nancy, Katie, or Kristie at the top.