Anyone who knew me as a child, may remember how desperately I wanted a nickname. Shelby was never shortened to anything good. At least nothing that satisfied me. Even today, the most common way people try to shorten my name is by calling me Shelbs, which if you count the letters, isn’t even shorter. So obviously that does not qualify.
In response to my whines for a nickname, my own father started calling me Shelb-belb-on-a-doorknob. He persisted in calling me this over all my protestations. None of us ever figured out where he came up with this name or why. He now denies any recollection of this much-detested nickname. I guess it cured me of my whining though, which I suppose may have been his plan all along.
As I got older, I gathered a rather large collection of nicknames. Ranging from the rather common misheard pronunciation of my name as Chubby, to the ode to the Ford GT500 Mustang. A brother-in-law, who nicknames pretty much everyone he meets, has a rotating list of names he calls me. I was just getting used to being called Rampage when he switched to Dee. Now obviously, Dee is sort of my name. I’m used to hearing it run together with my first name, as if my name were BillieJo or MarySue. But not usually as a stand-alone name.
Both wonderful, strong ladies.
But I never knew that Grandma Shelby had nicknames too. I mean, I’ve heard Mama say that she and her friends used to call Grandma the Dragon Lady. But I’m pretty positive they never utter that name in her earshot.
A few weeks ago, as us girls were sitting around the room with Grandma, she started to tell stories. I ran fast into the other room to grab my notebook and a pen. I’d never heard Grandma Shelby tell stories before. Not stories of when she was younger. If she was telling stories, I was writing them down.
“Dave called me Janey,” she said. “He almost never called me Shelby.”
We all smiled and laughed, and cried out why?
“I don’t know why he did that.”
I’m not sure if Grandpa David came up with nicknames for everyone the way my brother-in-law does. We’ll never know why he called her Janey. If there even was a reason, or if like my dad, it was just something he pulled out of thin air. But I’m glad she’s telling stories, and am honored to be a listener. It’s in the stories, the place we live on, even after we are gone.