The name game, part 2

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

So many emails as well as Facebook responses to last week’s Cheryl vs. Sherri Kitchen Table Talk! Evidently, I could have masqueraded as Cheryl Howell even among my relatives with great success.

One long-time reader wrote to say she remembered a column years ago about my younger son moving from “mommy” to “mom” and how I felt about that. “How do you like being called Grandmother?” she asked.

Actually, I am Gigi, and I love it. Grandmother was my second choice, had Gigi been vetoed.

Choosing a grandmother name was no easy task. My mother was Gran to my children, and Neville’s mother was Mamaw. I had a Mamaw and a Bubbie. I wanted something a little different, but not a name that sounded like I didn’t want to be “grandmotherly.”

I loved Gigi. The “g” sound for the Gardner in my name. It sounds fun, but still grandmomish. There was a problem, however. Our beach family, the Melendys, have a Gigi. And, if you know Anne Balitsaris, wife of the late Judge George Balitsaris and an extraordinary Gigi, well, you know those shoes will never be adequately filled.

I took dilemma to Amy Melendy, Gigi Anne’s daughter. She gave giving the future Howell grandchildren a “Gigi” a Thumbs Up, and Gigi was born.

Cohen, my now 12-year-old grandson, was just a month from his 8th birthday when I became his grandmother, and I had been Sherri to him since he was born. He sticks with “Sherri” most of the time, but I have heard Gigi occasionally from him.

The first time King, now 3, said Gigi, my heart melted, and I knew I had made the right choice of names. The good thing about G names is that they can say them fairly early – not as quick as “B” or “M,” but soon!

A couple of weeks ago, two things happened a day apart that tested the limits of how much happiness one woman can hold.

The first was in Nashville. I was visiting King, and we had been playing all day. Finally, he snuggled up on the couch for me to read a book to him. As I was reading, he reached up, put his little hands on both sides of my face and said, “My Gigi.”

The next day, home in Knoxville, I was on the phone with my younger son, Brett, in Seattle. Gardner, my namesake, is almost 19 months old. Brett must have been holding him, because he said, “Say hi to Gigi.”

And Gardner laughed and said, “Gigi!”

What’s in a name? From the mouths of babes, heart-expanding, all-encompassing love.

Wonder if I can get my passport and driver’s license to simply read: Gigi Gardner Howell. While I still love being Sherri and never want to lose who I am, this Gigi thing is gaining strength.


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