Friday, December 14, 2007

The Namesake

I gotta say. I love Netflix.

We watched a great movie the other night. It's called "The Namesake," and stars Kal Penn, of Harold and Kumar - and most recently "House" - fame. He plays a character named "Gogol."

Gogol is South Asian, and is born in America. Gogol is a name that has special meaning to his father, and I won't divulge too much more of the plot - you should rent it and see it. It's one of the more heartwarming and better movies we've seen this year.

But suffice it to say that growing up with the name "Gogol" wasn't an easy prospect for a young boy, and despite standing up for himself early on, he grows to hate the name and starts going by the name "Nick."

I can relate to "Gogol" and sort of identified with the movie. After all, my name isn't Henry or Jack or Michael. It's Kane. But where Gogol and I differ is that I have never been ashamed of my unusual name. I've embraced it for the most part. It hasn't always been easy.

The taunting started early. One particular name calling incident that sticks out, which must have happened in 1st grade, was "Kane went down the main drain in Spain." Sound innocuous, right? Not when twenty other kids start chanting it because it seems like the thing to do.

Kids can be cruel.

I didn't have many friends when I was much younger, and I guess it's because my name was so easy to tease, and other kids didn't want to hang out with the kid who was always called "Candy Kane." What's the saying, "That which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"?

The name calling didn't kill me. And as I grew older, I embraced the fact that I had never come across someone with the same first name. Some "Cains" had showed up here and there, but I was the only "Kane" I had ever heard of, and certainly the only "Kane Farabaugh" in the world.

Sure, the bad guy on "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" was called "Kane." And it was the name of Orsen Welles immensely revered film, "Citizen Kane." Didn't bother me. And then, sometime in Junior High School, someone had asked me for the first time, "How did you get your name?"

WOW! How did I get my name? It took several years and several sources to get a fair and accurate accounting, but from what I can gather, mostly from my father who sometimes embellishes the truth for storytelling flair, it comes from the oldest person in our family when I was born.

Her name was Hilda Kane.

She was my grandfather's cousin, and had lived through the toughest times encountered by her generation. She worked in the Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh most of her life, and had never married after a relationship she had when she was younger left her heartbroken.

At a family get together one day before I was born, she asked my Dad if he had decided on a name. He hadn't, and she asked him if he wouldn't mind naming the child after her. On the surface, this might sound presumptuous, or at best, bold. To actually ask someone to name their child after you does take some courage. But if you knew this sweet and tender woman, arrogance and boldness are words you would not use to describe the quiet and wonderful Hilda. My dad agreed.

When I was born, and I wound up being a boy and not a girl, my Dad correctly decided that naming me "Hilda" would have made my life hell, and so they named me "Kane."

Hilda lived for the first 11 years of my life, and was in her late 80s when she died. I have to admit, I did not know the woman as well as I would have liked, but I am proud that I carry her name with me. A gesture by my father for a woman who did not have the good fortune to have a child to name for herself.

I am Hilda Kane's namesake.

And when I found this out, it made me embrace my name that much more.

These are important things to remember or look back on when you have a baby coming. My wife and I have spent many nights blurting out names for our baby. We've poured through a few baby naming books, and have searched and searched the internet for relevant and meaningful names that also sound good. There's been a few doozies that I must admit I've chuckled at. Heathcliff is one of them.

But because I've had a unique name, I would like to pass that on to my kids. There's something in the uniqueness of a name that makes you work a little harder to set yourself out from the rest.

We think we've got our baby's name picked out.

The real challenge in life is getting people to pronounce "Farabaugh" in the first try... something few people throughout my life have been able to do... without a little help from the namesake.

1 comment:

Rascal said...

Would I be too bold to ask you to name the newbie "John Francis Cadiz Ruiz Garcia Castro Batista Hurtado Ignacio Sabin Angel Humberto Farabaugh?"