What’s In A Name (Originally Posted 23 Dec 2012)

This is another one I am glad I found . . .

23 Dec 2012 –

I have recently reconnected with some friends from my deep, dark past and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that having happened.  But a funny thing has happened as a result, and I thought I would take the opportunity to write about it here. I’m not sure where this subject will lead, we’ll just have to run with it for awhile and see what we get.

Okay, so what’s so funny?    Until my first day of college, I was not known as Ken.  Everyone I knew growing up in Dearborn, MI called me Lee. Not many people may think this story is funny, but I do.  I also think in some ways it tells me some things about myself, things I maybe need to explore more deeply at some point.

One of the people I recently reconnected with told me “You will always be Lee to me.” And I told her that’s fine with me. It’s definitely part of who I am and I’ll never deny that to be the case.

To understand how I became Lee in the first place and then how I subsequently became Ken, probably requires a little more background (I’m sure this will all be too boring to bear, so apologies in advance). Some of this is speculation on my part, whatever.

My given name is Kenneth Lee.  My father was also Ken, although he had a different middle name, so I’m not a JR.  In any case, as a small child, my family all called me Kenny Lee.  My parents then divorced right around the time I started going to kindergarten (Mrs. Hart’s class for those of you who care to remember) and right around that time, I declared that I wanted to be called Lee.  I can only guess that this decision on my part was somehow tied to my parent’s divorce.

And so it went through the rest of my childhood and adolescence.  Roll call first day of school I would let the teacher know that I went by Lee, and that would be the end of it.

This all changed my first day of college.  Arriving at the University of Pennsylvania campus in late August of 1983, I had my mother stop by the football office before going to check in at the dorms.  With my mother waiting in the car, I ran up the steps of Weightman Hall to say hello to the freshman football coach, excited about this new chapter in my life.  As I entered the coach’s office he reached out a hand and exclaimed “Kenny Saunders, it’s great to see you.  I’d like you to meet two of your teammates, Scott Morcott and Tom MacVittie.”

This was something I was totally unprepared for. Had it been only Coach Dobbes in the office, it’s likely that I would have gone through the same routine I went through every Fall, and just told him that I went by my middle name. And continued to be know as Lee.

But as an uncertain freshman in a new environment, with so much change in life dropping on me in one big load, not wanting to make the coach look bad in front of these other two freshman, and not wanting to look like a loser to them as well, I simply reached out my hand and said hello to Scott and Tom. And I was known forever thereafter as Ken (or Kenny).  All this happened in about 1 tenth of a second.  So all the context in the beginning of this paragraph is, of course, post event analysis.  All I know is that as surely as I can tell you the day I gave up on the Detroit Lions, I can tell you with exact certainty the day Lee Saunders became Ken Saunders.

After that, when I was home over the summers, my mother could tell immediately on answering the phone if someone calling for me was a high school friend or a college friend.  The high school friends would ask of Lee.  And the college friends for Kenny.

Although it took some time, eventually all my family, including my mother and sister, converted back to calling me by my first name.  Some of my cousins struck the claim of being trendsetters, as they never stopped calling me Kenny in the first place.

For everyone I have met since that first day of college, they have only known me as Ken.  And they can’t imagine me as a Lee.  And for all my friends from high school, who did not have the adjustment period that my family did, they have only known me as Lee. And they can’t imagine me as anything else.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my father, who died in 1989 and who I did not get to know very well in the years after my parents’ divorce. Those thoughts are for another post, sometime in the future.

The one thing I will say on that subject is, however it happened, I am now very glad to be known as Ken.  At the same time, I’m not phased in the least when someone calls me Lee or tells me I will always be Lee in their mind.

At times post college when I would get moody, some of my college friends would call me Sybil in jest.  And while I didn’t always see the humor in it, I am very content with the two personalities of Ken and Lee residing in me.  Like Janus, I think they are very complementary to each other and hopefully make the sum greater than the parts. At least that’s how I like to think about it.

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