What’s in a Name


When I was about three years old, I’d sit cross-legged on the carpet in our living room every morning, eagerly awaiting the beginning of “Romper Room.”  The black-and-white television set would come alive, and the familiar picture of the jack-in-the-box, along with the theme of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” meant my favorite show was about to begin.

After 30 minutes of totally enjoyable stories and fun from Miss Diane, she would end the show by taking out her Magic Mirror and using it to see all the children watching from
home.  One by one, she’d call our names.  I waited, riveted, for Miss Diane to recognize me.  But day after day, she saw Karen, Donna, Johnny, Laura, and David.  She couldn’t
see me in her Magic Mirror!  I sat so close to the TV, willing her to see me sitting there, so she could say, “I see Martha!” It never happened. I was crushed.

Running to find my mother, I cried and cried, asking her why Miss Diane couldn’t see me.  My mom, who wouldn’t admit to any culpability in this conspiracy, rocked me in the big chair, stroking my Little-Orphan-Annie-red hair, but never really providing an explanation.

Once I started school, I was in a class with two Karens and three Kathys. But I was the only Martha. I wanted to be named Jane or Colette, like the prettiest girls in first grade, or Lora, who was ultimately cool at age six. All through grade school, high school, and even college, I wished I had been given a different name.  I didn’t even have a middle name to fall back on.

So when did the acceptance come? Hard to say, but maybe I realized that I couldn’t be anything other than Martha. It was the gift given to me by my parents, at my baptism.  I’ve been able to smile at the biblical image of Martha as a hard-working lady of the house, and Martha is indeed the patron saint of house-bound wives.

And having been out of popularity for some time (no kidding!), in 2006 Martha broke into the top 100 names in the United Kingdom (number 99).  I’m fine with that.