Being Corinne
by Corinne H. Smith

Most people mispronounce it —
At least, at first —
Because the double Ns should shorten the I
And make the name rhyme with “begin.”

Or they look at the letters too quickly
And reply to my messages with, “Dear Connie –”

I’ve learned to cope by just answering correctly,
Spelling it with one R and two Ns;
Pronouncing it as though
I’m coming too fast around a corner,
And I “careen” toward you.

Because “Aunt Corinne” says it this way.
She was one of my mother’s roommates
Back at Penn, in nursing school,
Where they had the kind of adventures
Young women could have in the big city
In the post-war ‘40s and ‘50s.

Then they moved apart for the Real Life ones:
Corinne, to a nursing career in Buffalo;
My future Mom, to a marriage in the outer suburbs.
Two years later, I showed up.
My parents both liked the name.
Now the world had two of us.

In the 1960s, our families visited;
And we once posed
With two of Corinne’s three boys
In front of Niagara Falls.
Our mothers caught up again at Penn reunions.
And we would call Corinne on cold winter nights
Whenever we heard it was snowing big in Buffalo.

The decades slipped by.
We fell off to Christmas cards.

Until a few years ago, when I stopped in Buffalo,
And Corinne and I met for the first time as adults.

We had thirty years between us
And we were very different people.
But we still found common ground
And much to talk about,
As we shared our professional successes
Made good, in spite of personal challenges.

We could smile and look at each other
As new old friends;
And know without saying it
That we were proud of each other,
And that we had both done our best with the name.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: June 1960, Niagara Falls. My mother stands on the left, and Corinne is on the right, with David and me in front and baby Bobby in Corinne’s arms. This is the only photo I have with both Corinnes in it. I was two and a half years old. I hope to get a current one this summer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Having an uncommon name means never finding personalized key fobs or notepads on any gift shop kiosk. Or emitting squeals of surprise and delight, if you do.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Corinne H. Smith is a writer and a poet who worked as a librarian for more than 30 years. She is the author of Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey, the first book to follow American author Henry David Thoreau’s 1861 trip from Massachusetts to Minnesota. Her forthcoming book for middle schoolers, Henry David Thoreau for Kids: His Life and Ideas, With 21 Activities, will be published by Chicago Review Press in 2016. She writes memoir and nature pieces as well as book and music reviews for a variety of outlets. She has participated in public poetry readings in both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. You can catch up with her at

Author photo © 2014 Rob DePaolo.