Sunday, October 4, 2009

Timmy J

You may have noticed that last month had an especial lack of posts. I'll be honest. I'm not telling you people anything (or I'm trying not to) until Thanksgiving. And the only way for me to keep a secret is to not say anything. So while I may be a terrible friend for the next couple of months, the least I can do is update my blog.

Thus, I present Tim, my awesome husband.

My mom, when we were visiting my parents a few weeks ago, joked with me about an old teacher of mine she had run into. She told me how when she went in for a Parent-Teacher conference that this teacher insisted on calling me Timothy. “That’s what he prefers,” she said. This was news to my mom, and certainly never took up my full name. To her, I was her Timmy J in those days, her tiny Tim. She laughed about the experience, then the conversation switched to a different subject.

While my mom just saw this little encounter as some funny thing that kids say, to me it was something that has always stuck with me. Growing up I always wanted to be great at everything that I did. I wouldn’t say I was an overachiever, although many probably would, my idea of achieving was to be at least as good as the best person in the class. However, in my young mind, the best was certainly not seen as I see it today, and this early experience made me extremely frustrated because I was unable to achieve what I saw as the best.

In my first grade class, one day my teacher Mrs. Cooper thought it would be fun to compare the lengths of names in the class. As we went around the class, I saw very quickly that with a name of “Tim” I would be at the bottom of the list of lengths. Being on the top of that chart would obviously be better than being on the bottom, so when it came to my turn, I said that my name was “Timmy J.” The teacher would not accept that and proceeded to write down “Tim” instead. I cried out that my name must be longer! My teacher, who now I am sure was used to hearing children complain about strange subjects, ignored me and put my name at the bottom of the chart, right below a Laotian boy named “Cow.”

To this day I remember the name of the girl who won: Elizabeth. Nine letters. It was always the girls who beat me in school. We probably even called her Liz, but that teacher probably preferred those perfect little girls who didn’t complain about stupid things like their names being too short.

That night, I went home and complained to my mom that my teacher wouldn’t let me use Timmy J as my name. My mom laughed, and asked why I didn’t use Timothy. Timothy. Seven Letters. Hmm. It was certainly less than nine, but twice as long as three.
I knew we wouldn’t do the same activity in that class, so I was resigned to be “Tim” for the rest of the year. But next year I was ready. Roll call came, and when the teacher called out my common nickname, I quickly corrected her. “Timothy,” I said. So Timothy I was for the entire second grade.

We never did do the name length comparison. We had moved on to counting money and bingo, perhaps two of the most important skills of our time. In third grade I had learned enough to know how silly I was for insisting the teacher call me Timothy. But if we did, I knew there was always a “Liz” in the class I could pull down with me.