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Saturday, September 25, 2004

What's Your Mama's Name, Child?

[The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.]

My mama, for the sixty some-odd years of her life, has been named Mary Jane Diana. This was a source of wonder to us when we were children, since having two middle names was unheard of. It simply wasn't done. Why, lots of people didn't even have one! Apparently, Grandma and Grandpa couldn't decide whether Jane or Diana should be her middle name, so they compromised and used both. This is also a source of wonderment, since that sort of stubbornness usually stems from wanting to name a child after a relative, and to my knowledge we have no other Janes or Dianas in the family.

Well, two middle names being impossible, the "Diana" became silent on official documents. Mom's checks and other papers were usually in the name Mary J., with occasionally some illiterate organization dubbing her Maryjane.

Well, last year Mom and Dad went on a Caribbean cruise, which was a real thrill for them. Since they actually left the country!, they needed some sort of proof of nationality. Mom's previous forays into a foreign land (Canada) needed no such thing, so she figured she'd be OK with her "birth certificate".

But it turns out that the "birth certificate" is really no such thing. Not having seen it, I don't know what it is, but it was deemed inadequate. There they were, about to leave on this trip of a lifetime, and Mom's primary form of birth ID was no good.

The cruise line (or customs, or whatever) finally relented, but I guess my parents figured they needed real ID. So recently they applied for official birth certificates from the county (or possibly the state), and Mom finally learned her True Name: Maryjane Piana.

Piana? Yes, somebody wrote "Diana" with a little too much vertical, and some idiot transcribed it as "Piana". ("Why, shore we named her Piana, after that music box they got down to the church. We thought it was an awful purty name.")

Now she's Maryjane Piana, and she thinks changing it would take a lawyer and hundreds of dollars. (That might not be true. I tried looking on the web, but the state where she was born doesn't seem to have any instructions for correcting a birth certificate.)

Now, this has not come up before because Mom has not held a steady job since something like 1963. That used to be common for women. It was also common for people not to need a jillion pieces of paper to get a job or a bank account. That's before the IRS took an interest in your every crook and nanny. Those inclined to wail, fume, rage, or declaim against the creeping power of the government, feel free to go ahead without me. I'm just going to giggle that my mother's legal name is "Maryjane Piana".

Two things come to mind:

1) Was she ever legally married?

2) She's lucky her parents didn't name her Denise.

In other name follies, my stepdad had an aunt whose mother named her Ruby Crystal, but the doctor who delivered her didn't think this was a good enough name, so he wrote "Mary Catherine" on the birth certificate. (Perhaps the doctor, ahead of his time, feared she might lase at some point.) She worked at a hospital, and I was surprised, visiting her once, to hear someone call her "Mary". That's how I found out about the name change. Ruby had a sister named Opal. Wonder what was on her birth certificate.