As Terry and I have ventured out on long road trips, we have invented a game to while away the hours. It first came to us as we were crossing the vast expanse of pretty flat southern Minnesota along I-90. The road signs caught my attention – the road signs naming the towns at each exit.
It occurred to me that some of those towns given so much attention on the large green signs could be names of people. Madelia Fairmont. Kiester Wells. And so we began to create the characters around those names as if we were writing a story about them and how they might interact with one another.
Madelia Fairmont brought to my mind Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, the wife of the mayor in the movie “Music Man.” A person who thinks rather highly of herself and exudes that in her bearing and overbearing manner and exaggerated highfalutin vocal intonations. Madelia Fairmont would, however, be less pompous yet very much in charge, an attractive middle-aged woman of good breeding and background. A leader among both men and women. Saddled with an old-fashioned name in the contemporary world.
In addition to Kiester Wells, the comic relief of our story, we found many others including an exit from the Interstate that proclaimed Myre Big Island. Not I’m not sure how Minnesotans pronounce the town of Myre, but we declared it would be Myra. And given the pairing with Big Island, we are still debating whether she is, in our developing story, Native American or, perhaps, Hawaiian.
One of the names we have discovered on our other forays onto highways was right under my nose for the years I was living in the St. Joseph, Mo., area. Plain as day: Tracy Weston. A good character name. Perhaps the romantic lead or even a murderess. And if we decided we needed a male in that part, we would just reverse it: Weston Tracy. It’s all good.
At first, I made use of Madelia Fairmont’s name as I acquired a car with voice navigation and I decided that I needed a name to call this faceless person who was giving me directions. Madelia seemed a bit too uppity for someone sharing the ride with me, so I named our navigator Maddie. Since we acquired a new car, Maddie made the change with us and continues to give us directions, some very good, some not so much, as we tool down the highway into parts unknown.
But Madelia Fairmont has taken on a life of her own. She has become my nom de plume. I can respond anonymously to comments on the Internet as either Madelia or Maddie. I can disguise my presence to websites that require a name. I can even make restaurant reservations as Maddie Fairmont. No one raises an eyebrow.
As the days go on, Maddie Fairmont and I are becoming one, but I can shape Maddie’s personality according to how I am feeing on a given day. And I can put Maddie to use when I just want to remain anonymous. For whatever it is worth, I’m finding a nom de plume handier every day. I like being able to fly under the radar.
It was noted on a news report this week that when people are under consideration for new jobs, and especially high-profile jobs, they tend to keep their names out of the public eye. They don’t want current employers to know they are considering another position. They don’t want everyone and their cousin to know if they are tossed out of the running. But it was noted that with the current transition for the president-elect, just the opposite seems to be true. Those interested in positions with the new administration are actively and visibly campaigning for those jobs. I don’t think this is unique to this president-elect. Getting one’s name out in the public eye and ear is a way to get one’s self thoroughly vetted in public and draws the attention of a transition team as well as the president-elect himself.
From the beginning of time, God was handing out names to people. Adam was the first man and that’s what his name means. From there on, God hands out names left and right depending on God’s expectations for that individual or God’s call to him or her. God gave Adam the assignment of naming all of the animals and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Names have always been important to God. Names are important to us as we study God’s word. We may often gloss over those long genealogies that tell us who begat whom, but sometimes it’s fun to study them and find out just who was related to whom. I was surprised to find that even Jesus had a black sheep or two in his family history. Gives me hope that maybe even I might achieve something beyond human expectations, something good and not evil, something kind, understanding, personable, knowledgeable yet modest. Those are the leadership traits I covet the most. Something that is always respectful of God because God wants me to know God’s name.
I can work on those as Gretchen Lord Anderson. In the meantime, they can come to fruition as Madelia Fairmont (copyright pending).
Thankfully, God knows me by name regardless of the name I am given or choose for myself. There’s no flying under the radar with God.
“19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” – Genesis 2:19
“When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them ‘Humankind’ when they were created.” – Genesis 5:1a-2
“10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10