Naming an Heir, a Parent
by Merna Louise Dyer Skinner

When I am four
     the universe is me and its name is Merna.
     Father’s sister behaves as if she too is Merna.
     Calls herself, Big Merna, says I’m Little Merna.
     I call her Aunt Me-Me. There should be no doubt.

When I am ten
     I add my middle name, Louise, to my camp clothes labels.
     When I say it aloud—it flows and feels soft as cloud names: Nimbus,
     Cumulus, Cirrus, Louise. One afternoon, laying on the grass,
     I search the shifting cloud shapes for Clara Louise, my father’s
     mother, sent to heaven during a great flu epidemic. Dad was my age.
     I think I understand since I too feel motherless at camp.

When I am sixteen
     I audition new signatures, cursively slanting letters forward,
     leaning letters back, always disappointed with the lack
     of flourishing lines. The loop of the “y” in Dyer longs for a companion.
     Like the actress Myrna Loy, I want two y’s that swoop and sway.
     If Clara Louise were alive, I’d whine in my best teenaged voice—
     Why did you name your daughter Merna and delete the stylish “y?”
     She (and I) are too glamorous for a pedestrian “e.” Why, why?

When I am twenty-seven
     my universe becomes my firstborn child. I take care to
     properly spell his Gaelic name S-E-A-N. No phonetics
     to assist the uninformed. How do I fail to see the irony? The ancestral
     burden given me now goes to him:

               Hi, my name is – No, spelled with an “e,” please.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author and her son, Sean Skinner, August 2014, taking it “e”asy at the beach in Southern California.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As the second “Merna” in my family, I’ve always wondered how my very English paternal grandmother, Clara Louise Stevens Dyer, chose her children’s unusual names: Guida, (a boy), Inez Merna (my aunt) and Hugh Arlyn (my father, who scored the most common name). Since Clara Louise died in 1927, when her children were quite young, no one knows the genesis of their names. We do know, however, that both boys used nicknames (Guy and Scotty) rather than their given names.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merna Dyer Skinner writes poetry and personal essays when she is not working as a communications consultant at Satori Communications, Inc., helping people overcome their fear of public speaking. Her business articles have appeared in national publications and her poetry in MiOPeasias, Star 82 Review, Mojave River Review, Silver Birch Press (Me as a Child Series), and the Squaw Valley Review. She is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Writers Community and continues to attend classes at the UCLA Writers Extension Program and Writers Workshops of Los Angeles. She lives in Venice, California, with her sixth rescue dog, Sophie.