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My Name Is . . .

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“Is that your legal name?” I am usually asked this when signing forms or applications. “Yes,” I reply stoically. I always try to be patient when it is implied that I may not be truthful about my “real” name. How could anyone know that I had wanted to change it at several points in my life?

Cathy, Cathey, Cathie, Catherine, Cathryn, Cathrine: my name and a few of the various spellings. K is often used as the first letter. There are many more variations, often considered nicknames: Kate, Katie, Kay, and Kitty. Kitty is seldom spelled with a C. Spell check had a tough time with several of these names. Anyone who asks my name is usually quick to start it with a K unless I give them something to copy it from. “Oh, your name starts with a C,” they say, like it is foreign and surprising to them.

My uncle from my mother’s side of the family decided when I was around five years old that he would prefer to call me Cat. It soon became Kitty Cat, as I whined that Cat was not my name. He said I sounded like a cat meowing unceasingly. My mother said he teased me because he loved me. I was thankful we only visited him once or twice a year.

Soon after that I decided that I would rather be called anything but Cathy. I suggested replacements to my mother such as Tulip, Rose and Daisy. Thinking back to that period, I believe I picked those names because of the flowers in my mother’s garden. She spent a great deal of time tending to them and I had reached an age where I was expected to become more self-sufficient; picking up my clothes, fixing my own cereal for breakfast and other tasks she considered appropriate. Perhaps this was an attempt to gain back the attention of more tender years. I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I was probably stuck being a Cathy.

I am Cathy. There is nothing fancy or unusual about the spelling. It is plain, simple, unpretentious and easy to pronounce. When I was old enough to go to the library I used a book they had to look up the meaning of my name. The origin is Greek and means pure. I was shocked. My family is Scotch-Irish, Pennsylvania Dutch and French Canadian. I couldn’t understand why my parents would choose a name so far from our heritage. Then again, my young mind was incensed at many things in those years of discovery.

My moniker began to take on a new life when I entered middle school. Our neighborhood had grown and there were more kids around my age. Some of the older ones dubbed me Cath. I took my new nickname to mean that I was accepted into the group which seemed so important at the time. Pre-teenage angst. “Cath, let’s ride bikes,” “Cath, bring your suit to go swimming,” “Let’s go to Cath’s house to play hide and seek.” Occasionally the entire neighborhood would hear of my popularity when someone would yell “Caaaaaattthhh” down the street to get my attention. That was certainly an ego boost.
I was in my early twenties though when I began to truly accept the name Cathy as my own. I had been hired as a room service waitress in a local hotel. The position required me to wear a name tag. I began to hear my name in a different context. Guests of the hotel always seemed to say it with delight when I knocked on their door with their food or drink orders. Managers would say it politely when giving me an assignment. As I grew in my professional life, saying my name with a tone of authority as I introduced myself, I gained the respect of my peers and management. I changed jobs and now say my name with each new phone call. People respond to me with courtesy and professionalism.

Hearing my name spoken by others also gives me a sense of pride in it. Being introduced to a group that I am giving a presentation to brings applause. My husband says it with love and affection in his voice. My mother says my name now as though I am her equal, her friend and her confidant. I can still hear my father’s voice calling me from down the hall. My friends speak my name with laughter and fondness at the good and hard times we have shared. Cathy is a part of me now. The personality traits I have developed; kindness, humor, knowing, wondering, professionalism, purity of intentions, caring and even some darker moments are all a part of who Cathy is.

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