Ages about 4-7 years old - a few short years to learn and absorb a whole lot of awareness of and fascination for names:
Before 5 years old, I remember playing house, and how when you play house, you can’t use your own name, because it’s pretend. I thought [name]Sally[/name] was a great name (I still like it), and I sort of somehow became aware of [name]Patricia[/name] as a “fancy” name, if we were playing “mansion.” I remember there’d be lots of children, and it was like something you’d see on tv, rich people at some sort of benefit, tawlking like we were ever-so-fahhhhncy. [name]Sally[/name] couldn’t live in the mansion, unless I was “the baby” or the maid.
When I was about the same age, the daughter of a friend of my father’s used to play with me and she had a completely weird name, I recognized at +/-4 as unique. She was named after her Italian grandfather. Her name is so unique, I don’t want to spill it.
I remember [name]Mary[/name]'s brother [name]George[/name]. I thought the name [name]George[/name] sounded like an old man’s name, and I went the entirety of my academic career never meeting another young [name]George[/name], “proving” my hypothesis. I was on the junior bowling league with [name]Mary[/name], and another one of her friends from Catholic school had a younger sister, [name]Colette[/name]. Oooh. Very exotic and dainty. Like I knew these things, I just had a sense about them. Strange Italian grandpa name - not just offbeat; highly unique. [name]George[/name] - old man. [name]Colette[/name] - like a princess.
I must have been already 6 or 7 by the time I bowled on a team. There was the incident where my mother brought me to the lanes, and one of the other parents wrote my name on the electronic roster before we arrived, which transmitted on the overhead, and spelled my name [name]CARYN[/name], over which I threw a fit, and that they couldn’t erase once it had been entered in the machine. I refused to bowl unless they could change it, thinking if it had been the other way around, and I was the one who spelled it weird, it would have been totally forgivable had they guessed the standard spelling. Who spells a regular name 60% wrong? After we came in 2nd place that year, I never bowled again in any organized way, and [name]Mary[/name] and [name]George[/name] moved away.
My other friend up the other way was in my kindergarten and 1st grade whose older brother’s name was [name]Roch[/name]. More intriguing than my other friend’s brother [name]David[/name] or [name]Darren[/name] or neighbor [name]Andrew[/name]. Then they moved away too. But going to school made me so aware of names that other people had and I loved it, and the way they spelled it, [name]Lorin[/name], [name]Woodrow[/name], [name]Delmar[/name], [name]Dominic[/name], [name]Adrienne[/name], [name]Lori[/name]-[name]Ann[/name]. [name]Loretta[/name] even (she was called [name]Lori[/name], because again, pass” name). I wish I remember [name]Delmar[/name]'s last name. He was the funniest kid to eat lunch with in 1st grade.
There were lots of Jennys and Heathers and Kims too, Freddies and Jimmys and this other [name]Karen[/name] in kindergarten. It was the first time I’d met another one. I knew my name was just not as wicked unique as the Italian-grandpa girl somehow without ever meeting another [name]Karen[/name]. Since I was [name]Karen[/name] _. from the get-go, and others, Mikes and Jennifers in particular had this in common with me, I loved to hear last names too. [name]Long[/name], short, easy, hard - Italian, Dutch, Irish, Polish, without knowing yet that’s what they were. Everybody gets their own song.
My sister was born just as I entered Kindergarten, when my mom brought out the book earlier that year, “Name Your [name]Baby[/name]” by Lareina [name]Rule[/name]. I remember trying to find “[name]Jennifer[/name]” in the book. [name]How[/name] come [name]Jennifer[/name] doesn’t have its own entry? It’s a form of [name]Guinevere[/name]. Huh, interesting. Fascinating. Thrilling. Totally flawed: Who the heck names their baby [name]Guinevere[/name]? I know 7 Jennifers and 0 Guineveres, Ms. [name]Rule[/name]. The book was my bible for years - even though it was off the mark for what’s going on in the world - for naming dolls, babies, and myself for pretend. It was good enough, I suppose, but even at 5-6, I think I was looking for another kind of book to come along, which took about 15 years, give or take, better late than never. (Thanks, [name]Pam[/name] and [name]Linda[/name]!)
I also remember as my mom struggled to come up with an original K name that she liked for baby if she’s a girl, as the neighborhood had a [name]Kathleen[/name], [name]Catherine[/name], [name]Kim[/name], [name]Koreen[/name], and she didn’t like [name]Kelly[/name]. She didn’t like [name]Kim[/name] either, but I loved [name]Kim[/name]. She didn’t ask my opinion. And she was very conscious not to copy someone’s name, especially family or anyone near. So my sister is [name]Lauren[/name]. Contrast that with the [name]Lorin[/name] in my kindergarten class - I did, very much. The bowling incident would come after this.
The girl who lived next door came over all the time and loved my baby sister. She must have been about 9, and started to call the baby [name]Lorelei[/name]. Must look that up in the book. The book, book, book. I was a little frantic that she could have her name changed somehow, as my mother liked [name]Lorelei[/name] a lot and called her that sometimes. Unfair. I know that’s unfair. [name]Lauren[/name] is like [name]Karen[/name] but different. [name]Lorelei[/name] is just. not. fair. Anyway, I had the book and I knew how to read, so I was off on my own, ready to take any name I wanted. Take that, “[name]Lorelei[/name],” I’ll fix you.
Other names that caught my interest (some 1st love, some just curiosity):
W-W-[name]Wilhelmina[/name] (a short piece that was on [name]Sesame[/name] [name]Street[/name])
[name]Joey[/name] - a girl named [name]Joey[/name] on [name]Sesame[/name] [name]Street[/name]. I wanted a boyish name like that right away.
Shala - just wow. Who with me remembers Shala? [name]Love[/name] to say Shala.
[name]Jessica[/name] - my grandparents’ dog. They had had her at least all my life by then, but at some point it struck me as weird, a dog with a real name and not something, oh, like [name]Daisy[/name] or [name]Misty[/name] or [name]Heidi[/name]. The families on either side and ourselves used these names for our dogs.
[name]Francesca[/name] - in my first ballet recital, there is an older dancer (like 15? 18? maybe even older) who had a solo - I didn’t know her, I was just so mad for her beautiful name listed in the program.
[name]Palma[/name] - another friend’s mom had this name.
Basically, it looks like I became aware of and “collected” and “studied” names like another kid picks up rocks or seashells or matchbox cars or baseball cards, and used them like tools to understand as well as create. The mind needs and seeks something to fascinate over and organize and rank and compare and admire and judge and categorize. Names are people, they are words, they are words about people. That’s a lot, but that’s about it.