What’s In a Name?

What’s In a Name?

When we hear of the birth of a baby, we learn if it’s a boy or a girl and the chosen name. Especially interesting in recent years is the fact that young parents are handing out names that were popular a century ago.

I had always been told I was named after our neighbor’s daughter Marlene. There was a time when I questioned that, for I thought Mrs. Hug became our neighbor years after I was born. But I found a baby card sent to my family at the time of my birth, and Mrs. Hug’s note confirmed I was named after Marlene Hug.

Her note on the back of the baby card reads: “I was so glad when the girls came over and told me about their little sister, but I guess I wasn’t the only one they were really tickled about it. Just what they wanted a baby girl. Marlene will be thrilled when she finds out that you named the baby after her. I told the girls when they came over and told me about it – that will make a nice Xmas present. They said that’s what Marcia said when she was putting up the Xmas Tree. You will be home now for Xmas you knew just when to go. You had that arranged purty nice. I hope everything goes well with you and the baby. Take good care of yourself. Mrs. Flora Hug.”

Everyone ought to have a Mrs. Hug in their life. When I texted her name to my sister a few years ago, the hug emoji appeared. It never occurred to me – her name was Mrs. Hug. She made homemade sugar cookies. There was a cookie jar on her kitchen table. The house had a warm smell, no matter what the temperature was outside. She put sliced gumdrops in her homemade sugar cookies.

We lived just a few steps away from our neighbors, but the neighbor ladies placed our birthday cards in the mail, probably knowing how great it feels to receive an envelope with your name on it.

She signed her name “Mrs. Flora Hug,” She likely knew her first name meant “flower” in Latin. It was in the top 100 names in the 1880s and 1890s, but gradually descended in popularity until it finally fell off the list in 1972. And although I thought her last name would likely mean “hug,” it does not. It means “intelligence.”

As an adult, I can say Mrs. Flora Hug really was an intelligent lady. She let the neighborhood children play in her yard – baseball of all things. She never discouraged us from our play. She was known to invite us into her home and let our hands find their way to the stack of cookies in the cookie jar. 

Mrs. Hug made lye soap. If you’re familiar with the smell and texture of lye soap, and you came across a bar of it, there’s no doubt you’d pick it up and check it out. For old time’s sake.    

Fifty-six years after Mrs. Hug sent the card to my parents, I found it and read her note for the first time. It’s just a piece of paper, yet I’d consider it one of my most valuable treasures.

What if Mrs. Hug had simply signed her name and had not included any words? Within her note, I learned my sisters went to her house with news about the new baby girl in the family. In Mrs. Hug’s words, my sisters were “tickled.”

I think it’d be fun to go through life with a name like “Mrs. Flora Hug.” Certainly she appreciated her name.

Maybe I’ll declare a National Mrs. Hug Day. Those who want to participate will be encouraged to share their favorite Sugar Cookie recipe. All across the nation, friends will meet up at the local cookie shop. They’ll hug each other before they visit. They’ll sit and reminisce and talk about things like their given name. The origin, meaning, and how their parents came up with it.

On National Mrs. Hug Day, everyone will send a greeting card to a friend. Included would be a note that gives others a quick peek at what’s going on in their life.

Those who work at the gumdrop factory would step up production before National Mrs. Hug Day so the shelves will be well-stocked with bags of regular and spiced gumdrops.

The flower shops would be busy, for everyone would be stopping in to buy a posey or two – one for me and one for you.  

I found Mrs. Hug’s Sugar Cookie recipe in my mother’s kitchen cupboard. It doesn’t matter to me if I use her recipe or not. I just like the fact that I have Mrs. Hug’s recipe.

Here I am, the owner of an old Sugar Cookie recipe card as well as a sixty-year-old baby card.

I may as well go ahead and tell everyone – I really did grow up in Mayberry. In front of my childhood home was a sidewalk. Children were outside on their skates and Big Wheels. We rode our bikes in town or pedaled our way out of town on country roads. There were perennial gardens. Picket fences. Backyard swing sets and picnic tables. A walking trail beside the St. Joe River. And Mrs. Hug was one of the characters within my real-life screenplay.

Mrs. Hug’s birthday is on October 21, a Saturday this year. I’m thinking I’ll declare the third Saturday of October as the day we recognize the Mrs. Hugs in our life. If I run into you at the local cookie shop that morning, I’ll know you’re meeting up with friends. You’re celebrating your own Mrs. Hug, which means you may be purchasing sugar cookies. Or maybe chocolate chip or peanut butter.   I’ll notice the flowers you’ve brought along, and I’ll know your greeting card is in the mail. Especially appreciated will be the handwritten note you’ve taken the time to write to your friend. And, as Stevie would call it, your “autograph” at the bottom of the card.     

A note from Mrs. Hug confirming I was named after her daughter.

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