Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Names Hang from Your Family Tree?

Did you know that humans and apes have 99% of their DNA in common? It makes the question I heard growing up, "What are you?" all the more poignant. Back then, the question referred to your ethnic heritage. Are you Greek? Irish? Polish? Italian? Jewish? I learned my fractions at a young age by trying to give the ingredients to my gene pool. Let's see, I'm half Greek, a quarter Irish, and a quarter French, German, and maybe some English.

As teenagers, we would try to calculate what our children would be if we married that cute but not-so-bright ball player. Or that sorta cute and very funny band geek. Calculating ethnic genetics and capability genetics proved to be a task that could keep a slumber party talking all night.

Marriage was the last thing on my mind during and right after college. I was out for opportunities to gain wisdom from the world. Dating was not supposed to be a direct path down the aisle as far as I was concerned. And despite my "mixed heritage," the pressures to find a "nice Greek boy" were strong. The cultural pressures actually worked against ambitious Greek American women who wanted to set the world on fire more than their stoves at home. Expectations create very powerful social norms, and the best way to manage the "perfect Greek wife" image was to avoid it.

Of course, when I brought home a WASP with the last name "Peed" to meet the family, you might think I went a bit extreme. I was used to having a name that sounded funny and no one could pronounce, but with a funny sounding last name that is so clearly spelled, well, that was another thing. What is it? people would ask. It doesn't sound Italian, or Irish, or Polish...

What kind of name is "Peed"? This is the question that led me to pursue the genealogy of my dear hubby. Growing up with that name is not for everyone. Two of Robert's uncles changed their last names to avoid the teasing (they are now Reed and Peet). So if you run into folks with either of those last names, there is a good chance that their ancestry actually has some Peed in it! That makes me smile every time I meet a Reed or Peede or Peete.

Our children have grown in their resilience with the name. They say the first couple of days at school each year are the toughest, as new teachers call out names and kids who hear Peed for the first time snicker. But they have learned to let name calling roll of their backs, which is a very useful skill in life. No one has yet to come up with a smarty pants comment that we haven't already joked about at home. (I told Katrina that if we had named her after my Aunt Mildred, she would have been Milly Peed).

Of course, their middle names are my maiden name, so we had to make sure their first names were strong and easy to pronounce and spell.

With our impending adoption(s), we are back to the drawing board with names. The new wrinkle in the process is that our child/ren will be from China, so we are working on how to honor their heritage without creating names that are overwhelming for people. Your name is the first impression you make in many instances -- people often see your name on paper before they meet you.

So, if you have any great ideas, please feel free to share them with us. We have about a year before we will travel to China to get our child/ren.

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