Even if writers don’t like their names or don’t like having a violent father’s last name, they can still write a story. Even if writers are adopted, they can talk about how the meaning of their given name compliments or doesn’t fit who they are.
There is still a story.
My name is unusual. Darolyn “Lyn” Erica Jones.
I started out in the world as Darolyn Erica Melvin. My father left before I knew him, and I never met another Melvin besides my older brother until I was grown and married and was named Jones.
When I was nine, I was still a Melvin living with my mother who changed her name to her maiden name, Gillespie. I loved my grandparents and used to beg to change my name to Gillespie too. But, my mother remarried and at age 10, I was adopted by my stepfather and my last name then came to be Morin.
I had a very difficult time as a Morin. I tried very hard to be one, but as an outsider in a fundamentally religious family in a small town, I was often reminded by the family that I wasn’t a “real Morin.” So, I finally let that go. As a feminist, I always wanted to keep my name but as I grew up, I realized that I had no desire to have the name of a father who left his children, never or rarely saw them, and chose to support his many wives instead of his own children. And, my stepfather and I struggled to get along. I was always a guest who had overstayed her welcome in that house, in that family, and in that community.
My husband is the best man, best friend I have ever known, so I was happy to be a Jones. A name doesn’t orient our activism anyway.
My mother was alone when she went into labor with me. She was living out west alone because my father had left. She was in a town where she didn’t know anyone. She had a terrible birth. I was born violently, ripping her apart and being ripped out. I still have a torn ear to prove it. She had to remain in the hospital alone for a week. When she could finally leave with her new baby, she had no name. They nun nurses insisted that she could not leave until I had a name. She was reading the paper and saw that the local Pork County Queen had been crowned. Her name? Darolyn. And so, my name was selected. The Erica was for close family friend that had been like an Uncle to my mother.
I hated my name growing up because NO ONE knew how to say it or spell it. And it’s story of origin was sad. Every roster list and role call sounded and sounds still to this day, like this:
“Darlyn?” (pronounced like darlin’) or
Darrelyn?” pronounced like Darryl and his other brother Darryl or
“DarOLyn” (pronounced like two words: Daro and Lyn”)
Snickering or hushed whispering.
“It’s Darolyn. Like Carolyn with a D.”
“That’s unusual. Is it a made up name? “
“A family name?”
“No.” (Please stop interrogating me. I move around a lot, and I’m often the new kid so now I get to be the new kid with the weird name too.)
“Where does it come from?
“I don’t know. But, can you just call me Lyn, like the last three letters of my name?”
“No, L-y-n, like the last three letters of my name, Darolyn. It’s my nickname, and it’s easier to spell and say.”
“Why don’t you spell Lynn correctly then with 2 n’s?’
“Just call me Lyn, okay?”
I adopted Lyn in the second grade to try and avoid this scenario, but as evidenced from above, it just created another level of confusion.
Only family and very close friends even knew my name was Darolyn. After day 1 of role call, most people forgot that my real name wasn’t Lyn.
I now use both names. Once I became involved in professional national work, my name was listed formally via my institution. Any my institutions listed me as I am listed on the payroll, Darolyn Jones. But close and local colleagues still only know me as Lyn. So I now sign and write under the name, Darolyn “Lyn” Jones. Which some find strange, but I find necessary.
For the first edition of a book I wrote, I had my name listed as Darolyn. In my consulting work, literacy coaches and teachers would show me my own book because they thought it would be useful and of interest to me.
“It is of interest to me,” I say, “I wrote it.”
“ No way! That’s not your name.”
I thought it was apparent that Lyn comes from Darolyn, but no one else made that connection. So I have evolved from being Darolyn Erica Melvin to Darolyn Erica Morin to Lyn Morin to Lyn Jones to Darolyn “Lyn” Erica Jones.
I named my own son, Will Jones. It’s a simple and strong name. It means “strong-willed warrior.” I named him Will hoping it would give him the will to live when he was born dead. It fits.
After I looked up the meaning of Will’s name, I happened upon my own. The truth was I thought my name was made up. I only saw the name once growing up, a writer of a children’s book named, Dairlyn Hall. And recently, I discovered another Darolyn Jones who sells real estate in Canada. I got an email inquiring about a lot for sale in Toronto.
But, it’s not made up. While rare, it’s an old English name that means Dearly loved or beloved. It also fits, because I am a dearly loved momma to a warrior special needs son.
So at age 45, I have learned to love my name because I rewrote its story.