For years, I barely remembered that I had a first name because it didn’t get used very often.
I feel into that trio of roles—wife / mom / teacher. So I was always being introduced as either John’s wife / Jessica’s mom / or Mrs. Linwood (Miz L to a lot of my students).
I would attend my husband’s company parties since that’s the thing supportive spouses do. Now mind you, the majority of the employees didn’t care if I (or any spouse) came to this event. They didn’t know us. They usually talked shop (which we knew very little about). But as I would circulate, making my way from group to group, from the mashed potato bar to the dessert carts, I would be friendly and accessible. I would introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Lauren. John’s wife.” I would get a few nods, maybe a question or two directed my way, but then I’d be able to wander off since I really wasn’t part of any conversation. Later, a fellow worker might not know my name or face, but he’d remember meeting John’s wife. I’d done my obligatory duty as a company spouse.
At school and sporting events (my daughter played everything from volleyball to basketball to softball and tennis), I was Jessica’s mom. Every now and then I might get a Mrs. Linwood from a kid, but for years my identity was as Jessica’s mom. I was just as guilty. My husband and I went to every game and match, and we would see other parents in the stands. When Amy went up to serve, I’d glance over at Amy’s mom. If Ginger went up to bat, I’d watch Ginger’s dad jump for joy after she hit a double. I knew a few of their names, but I usually thought of the kid and then the parents/siblings as a family unit, as in Amy’s family has the flu this week.
*The lone exception would be my own child. If we were in a huge crowd, most kids would yell out, “MOM!” – and 79 women would turn around. My smart child would shout out one very loud, “Lauren!” – and she could find me every time.
Teaching is different from the corporate world, where everyone casually uses first names throughout the work day. Teachers spend the largest chunk of their time with students. Unless you teach in a very, very progressive school, your students will use a title and your last name. I remember being in elementary school and discovering my 3rd grade teacher had a first name. Incredible! Even if I ran into students at church, the grocery store, or a ball game, they always gave a polite, “Hi, Mrs. Linwood!” greeting.
Then as I got older, things morphed. My husband worked for the same company for so long that after all those parties, I actually knew the names of some of his fellow employees—and even their spouses! We’d been coming to things long enough that we were comfortable with one another and actually had things to talk about. John’s wife became a thing of the past beyond when meeting someone new on staff.
More time passed, and my daughter graduated and left home, so no one addressed me as Jessica’s mom for years. I finished up my teaching career. As I joined civic organizations and book clubs, people referred to me by my first name. People took the time to learn my name. I was Lauren again!
And then the other day, one of my daughter’s friends read Outlaw Muse, my 2nd published book, while she was on vacation in Europe. I knew this because she told me via Facebook. Her mom is one of my critique partners. When we had our last session the other night, my CP mentioned her daughter reading and enjoying my book. And then she said words I hadn’t heard in quite awhile—“It was funny. She said it was weird thinking Jessica’s mom wrote it!”
It seemed like forever and a day since I’d been Jessica’s mom. And you know what? It was kinda nice hearing that again.
So while I like being known as Lauren, I still take pride knowing that I’m John’s wife and Jessica’s mom.