or, The Consequences of Starting Nicknames as a Lark

Rose vs. RoseMary”

Rosemary 1st grade 65-66
Rosemary 1st grade 65-66

As my relatives know, I have been “RoseMary” all my life. My parents named me after my grandmothers, Lillian Rosetta Griffith and Mary Jo Houghton. I would have opted for Lillian, had newborn me had a voice or cohesive thoughts when I popped out of the womb. Not Lily or Lil, but Lillian. It’s a beautiful name that rolled off my grandfather’s lips when he was trying to get Grandma’s attention. “Lillian!” He’d call out and she’d turn and they’d talk and often there was a kiss or a hug at the end of the exchange. While Grandma could be stoic and firm, Grandpa was always a big softie with a ready smile, a hearty laugh, and a corny joke or two.

At least my parents didn’t choose Rosetta! That would have been a tough name to handle throughout junior and senior high school, although it was probably perfect for a girl born in 1905.

I like my older sister’s name, Jaculyn Lee, however, I’m glad I don’t have to explain to people that I was a girl named for uncles. Our brother got his moniker from the grandads, Joseph Eugene, and the kid sister? Well, coming in eight years after Joey, we drew her name out of a hat. I always wondered why our parents didn’t opt for aunts—we had a Jean, a couple of Patricias, a Sandra, Barbara, Betty, and the unusal name, Jocelyn.

Back to Me and My Nicknaming Issues

In an effort to avoid having me called Rosie, my folks fused my first and middle names together. It didn’t work. The nicknames abounded and I would see red (pun intended) every time someone called me Rosie or Rosey-posey. 

This name combo caused problems from grade school forward when I would complete paperwork with my first name as RoseMary and no middle name. Back in the day, people were insistent that I had to have a middle name. Well, to me, I didn’t—innocently before understanding that Mary was my middle name and stubbornly after my parents explained that to me. So, I’d ignore the separate boxes and, mentally at least, tell the adults pressuring me to deal with the empty slot.

And People Wonder Why Redheads Have Tempers

Eventually, same as learning to love my blazing auburn tresses, I learned to like being RoseMary. It was a mouthful to say and I heard variations throughout my life. Which led to various nicknames.

  • Hosemary from my little brother who didn’t quite get the “r” sound. This one was tough when he got to senior high school with me and told my friends. Sigh. Yeah, I still love him.
  • “Romo” from my nephew who must have decided Aunt Rosemary, was too much to say. Wouldn’t that make a fun license plate?
  • “RMY” to friends in Montana. I get snail mail addressed that way.
  • “Rose-a-mary” to Grandpa Griffith. We aren’t Italian, so why he tossed that extra syllable in there never made sense, but thirty years after his death I can still hear him saying it as I would stroll up the lawn to the back porch.
  • Mom was fond of saying, “RM,” when she wasn’t yelling at me for something I’d done that deserved yelling over. Then it was full burst: ROSEMARY! And I knew I was doomed for some infraction that I should have avoided committing.
  • High school and college friends continue to know me as “Mur,” from a friend who once screamed, “Rosemurry,” down a long school corridor and decided she liked the sound of that stretched out name. Hence, the Murry of me.

My Nickname, Rose

Okay, okay, you’re saying, what about the Rose part, where did that come into this quagmire of variations on a theme?

I moved to Pittsburgh on a whim. 

It was an escape hatch to split from Montana while I decided on the next right place to go. Living in western Pennsylvania again, land where I was born, was never on my list of things to repeat. Once here, I went to interviews in New Mexico and South Carolina. Good enough jobs, but neither one paid what I would have needed to live at the standard I was accustomed to in Montana. What was intended to be a three-month stay in this city turned into seven months, then a year and now nearly twenty years have passed.

Ssh, I hear you, you still don’t get where the name thing comes in.

Having decided I would be here for only three months, I thought I’d try, for the first time in my entire life, using my first name as my entire first name.

I introduced myself as Rose over and over until it became easier rolling off the tongue. I filled out new forms and hey, I used the spaces for first and middle names! This was rather fun. That lasted for several years, until the novelty wore off.

Dang to that Nickname Experiment

Now, with my parents gone, losing wonderful uncles and fabulous cousins, the number of people knowing me as Rosemary has dwindled. I don’t care for it. Just like when Grandpa was no longer around to call out, Rose-a-mary (Or say to Grandma, “Mom, here comes Trouble, hide the cookies.”), I miss hearing my full name spoken by these loved people.

When I, frequently, talk to myself it’s always, Rosemary, what the heck did you do this time? Or, oh no, RM, Alex is gonna love this one—referring to whatever my latest household accident resulted in for him to fix.

When pre-Pittsburgh friends or family call me Rose, it takes me off guard. I think, who are you talking to? It sounds weird from you. Stop it.

When I first moved to to this city, I told a new friend that I loved the name Lillian, so her husband called me that—usually shortening it to Lily. With his deep, resonant voice even Lily sounded delightful to my ears. Once in a while he would also call me Chrysanthemum, so there was no real accounting for Jim. But he called me Lily so much that when I was finally introduced to friends of theirs, that couple didn’t know if my name was Lily or Rose. Jim is gone, but sometimes they still call me Lily in his memory.

Doing a Thing for the Fun of it

Many of the best results I have achieved in life have been the result of doing things on a lark. A whimsical notion would yank at my heart and I’d give into it. Because of that, I have friends in multiple states and France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia, Wales … you get the idea. Trips I’ve taken or places I’ve lived have given me the opportunity to collect people into my world. Had I not done trips or whole-house-moves as the notion to do so struck my fancy, this wouldn’t have been possible.

In 2009, at a suggestion from Jackie, I dumped the life that was stressing me out after our parents deaths only eight months apart. I ran away to Montana and was a Grown Up Nanny for her and her ever-patient husband, and Airedales Lizzie and Gus for six months. I got my priorities straight, melded the pieces of my heart back together as much as is possible and wound up married in Pittsburgh. 

These changes, the new, the adventures, happened in part because in 1999, I decided to change my name—and do a mini re-invention of myself.

So Rose as a nickname? That wasn’t a bad idea. But I’m working my way back to being RoseMary and finding out that I like the combination of both selves.

What about you?

What are you pondering doing that can impact and change your life to give you a fresh perspective on self? Can it be as simple as a nickname? Could that perhaps lead you back to who you once were?


Family can cause the greatest humor, How My Niece & Nephew Raised Me