What’s in a Name?

Lillian Mae Gruenwald. My full name before marriage. Lillian after my maternal grandmother, and by happenstance, my father’s twin sister. Mae after a beloved great-aunt. I hated it. The name; not my relatives. Cousins called me Lilly Mae or Little Mae. To everyone else I was Lillian.

In high school I was the skinny girl on the cheerleader squad. The only one chosen because of acrobatic abilities. I was also the only girl on the debate team. I dared to carry long metal boxes of index cards filled with researched “evidence.” I argued aggressively with boys, at tournaments all over the state of Illinois. To me, Lillian Gruenwald was a never-would-vote-for-homecoming-queen kind of name. And I was right. At homecoming, I was left leading the crowd in cheers for our Bulldogs while the Gail Shorts and Kay Savels left to change clothes. I watched as they sedately rode around the field at half-time, draped over new-model convertibles, donated for the occasion by the local Oldsmobile dealer.

So when my folks readied to leave me at college on that fateful day in early Autumn 1965, a crisp, cool, fresh day, I fidgeted. I willed them to leave before anyone came up to greet us. They finally did, after dutifully giving their Lillian lots of parental advice and enough hugs to smother me. I stood on the curb by the dorm, finally alone. Poised for a new life. On the brink of a new beginning. And then some newbie freshmen came up to greet me. I don’t remember who they were. Or how many there were. But I distinctly remember grinning, holding out my hand to shake their hands, and saying confidently, “Hi, I’m Lill.

sugar maple tree
dwarfed in surrounding green leaves
claims fall glory with crimson red


Toni is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. The theme today is KOMOREEI…a Japanese terms that literally means the light filtered between leaves, usually occurring in spring and fall…that in-between season. We’re asked to write about something that has occurred in between seasons.  Haibun: 2 or 3 tightly written paragraphs of prose, not fiction; followed by a haiku. In true Japanese form, the haiku is not beholden to the syllabic count, rather must be about nature and include a “season” word. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Photo in Boston’s Public Garden, Fall 2016. PS:  I’m happy being called Lill or Lillian these days….with age comes a knowledge that we are who we are, regardless of the name.

50 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Manja Mexi Movie September 4, 2017 / 12:09 pm

    This is great. You’ve said it all. ❤ (I'll catch up with the back posts too, sooner or later. Looking forward to it.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. whippetwisdom September 4, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    A wonderful haibun Lillian! I love how the power and confidence with which you introduce yourself to the freshmen with “Hi, I’m Lill” is mirrored in the third line of your haiku :o) xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:11 am

      I’d actually plotted that for some time …. 🙂 Now, I can tell what period of my life folks knew me by the name they call me 🙂 And when I began my first teaching job, I became Lillian again as I felt it was more formal and followed he resume/applications. . . then after my PhD I was Dr Hallberg on the job . . . then here in Boston I became Dean Hallberg….funny huh? And I’m still actually the same person but I think expectations of others does indeed go with names sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • whippetwisdom September 6, 2017 / 8:22 am

        I think it does. I have only known you as Lillian and your blogname is ‘Lillian the Home Poet’. It would feel so strange to suddenly call you ‘Lil’, especially as I like Lillian so much as a name 😉💖 xxx


  3. jillys2016 September 4, 2017 / 1:14 pm

    The Haiku and the photo serve nicely as a metaphor for your prose. Well done! (I went all the way through school with a guy that shares that last name. Not a homecoming king-type, but one hell of a trumpet player.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:12 am

      Gruenwald???? I rarely find anyone with that name. Somehow, I’m glad he was in music rather than a homecoming king 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) September 4, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    What I like with this is the way you can shake off your past when you start university… myself I shook off my shyness and began to be outward going instead… it could have been my name but I guess it was more myself…

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:13 am

      Exactly….there are few times in life when one can remake oneself easily. It’s usually with a total change of place. And that does become a real new beginning. I can not imagine you as shy! 🙂


  5. Grace September 4, 2017 / 3:05 pm

    I enjoyed your recollections of that time Lillian ~ Like you, it was a time for asserting my confidence and getting rid of my shyness ~ Love the changing colors of maple trees ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:14 am

      It was funny — I sure could assert my confidence at debate tournaments….just hard to do so on the social scene of high school. I’ve never been back to a high school reunion — always afraid no one would remember me!


  6. kanzensakura September 4, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    I love how you incorporated the going to school and how you introduced yourself. I love your haiku – a real haiku with season words….well done…LILL!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:16 am

      YAY! Toni, I am always soooo happy when I get a compliment from you on my haiku. Truly have learned a lot from you in these few years I’ve been in dVerse! So glad you enjoyed this one.


  7. alisonhankinson September 4, 2017 / 3:23 pm

    claims fall glory with crimson red- this is a wonderful phrase and reminds us that Autumn is not to be a time of grieving for summer but a time to relish this magnificent season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:17 am

      Autumn has always been my favorite season! 🙂 LOVE the cool crisp air and the colors — and the “nesting” that begins in preparation for the winter season. Candles come out in the evening, and I find I tend to read more for pleasure, hunkered down with an afghan. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. sarahsouthwest September 4, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    Yay! Good for you. I remember those days of re-inventing myself and trying out new identities. And even though I’ve been out of school and uni for a long time now, I still like September, and the start of a new term.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Exactly! My favorite time of year! 🙂


  9. paul scribbles September 4, 2017 / 3:48 pm

    Oh…the memories…who we could be on that first day..I was sure that no one was going to push me around..this was anew beginning…sadly I had no way to shorten my name to sound cooler 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:20 am

      I’ve always loved the name Paul…..very strong name. I think perhaps with your last name, if it is indeed Scribbles, you missed your “name appropriate” calling of being an artist or graphic designer! 🙂 Well, I suspect I was the same person after that first day — just with a new name that made me feel more comfortable. 🙂


      • paul scribbles September 6, 2017 / 8:29 am

        My art is my music and my name it is Dear 😉


      • lillian September 6, 2017 / 10:49 am

        Ah, dear one — know of the drums 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  10. qbit September 4, 2017 / 4:22 pm

    Love that you “changed colors” that first day of school.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kim881 September 4, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    You know I love autobiographical poems about dVerse poets and you never disappoint, Lill! I enjoy reading about the differences; for example, we didn’t have cheerleaders, debating teams or homecoming queens. In fact, the first time I heard of a homecoming queen was in the song ‘Daydream Believer,’ by The Monkees. I had a great aunt Lille – named after the French town where my great grandfather was stationed in WW1. ‘Hi, I’m Lill’ was the best way to start your new life as a sugar maple tree!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:22 am

      Smiling I am. Have never seen the spelling “Lille.” I’ve always done it Lill as Lillian has three Ls in it. But, most everyone, when they write my name for the first time, do it “Lil.”

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Bev September 4, 2017 / 5:13 pm

    Thank you for taking us on a trip down your memory lane. Your debate history was interesting. I would guess for most of us the addiction to words in some form started early on. Too bad the confidence that comes with age couldn’t be portioned out to that vulnerable young person we all were!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:23 am

      Yes — wouldn’t it be interesting to “collect word histories” from all of us home-poets! 🙂


  13. hypercryptical September 4, 2017 / 5:19 pm

    How I love that you reclaimed yourself with crimson red!
    How we are moulded by our upbringing – yet yearn to break free!
    Anna :o]

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:27 am

      I do think this scene is repeated with every child/parent who takes leave on that first day of college. Probably also that first day of school — every first day of school. Parents leave their children in preschool, for a few hours every day with a “teacher” and therein starts a development away from home. Same thing for kindergarten/first grade; then at many schools in US “junior high / middle school” and then “high school.” Each of those times, we as parents, have lessening influence on our children…it is a continual but gradual movement away. For me, that first day at college was a real “awakening” for many reasons 🙂 Our daughter left on a plane for one year in Germany 1-month shy of her 16th birthday, as an “foreign exchange” student” … in the days of no cell phones, Skype, or social media. Now that was a real letting go!!! 🙂


  14. Vaccinius September 4, 2017 / 7:33 pm

    Finally orange. Finally red. A sweet moment, before inevitably going to the ground. It is a good thing the GIRL can also be a PEARL. To the poet she is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:28 am

      What a lovely comment. Thank you for stopping by! Nice to meet you….have I seen you here before?


  15. revivedwriter September 4, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    This reminds me of when I started college! It was an exciting time when I could also reinvent myself, and I considered introducing myself by a new name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:28 am

      Exactly! It truly is “leaving the nest” and we fly on our own! 🙂


    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:29 am

      So glad you enjoyed, Mary! 🙂 Nice to see you here.


  16. Walter J. Wojtanik September 5, 2017 / 7:54 am

    And so we encroach on Autumn. Your haibun captured so much and is a great bio in itself. We learn more of ourselves from our foibles than what others see in our accomplishments. I still have my metal file box, sans “evidence” glad that my debate daze are well over! I can appreciate this so much, Lill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:31 am

      A fellow debater? I actually went to college on a debate scholarship! Don’t know if they even have those anymore? And debating in those days was very different…..not rapid fire…rather a real analysis of arguments even though we did talk pretty fast with our time limits. I’ve always been grateful for my debate background as it schools you in research and analysis and listening. 🙂


  17. nosaintaugustine September 5, 2017 / 8:26 am

    The thing we never grasp in high school is how much the things that make us “not homecoming material” are strengths, not weaknesses as with your debate skill and tenacity. And with the haiku, you had me at sugar maple! Great early september haibun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:34 am

      Oh you are so very correct here! I’ve always thought 8 – 12th grade the most difficult to maneuver through — so much emphasis on looks, body type, fitting in etc. I wasn’t a full on “nerd” — but pretty close. A girl who debated and was a cheerleader??? That’s a square for a round-holed peg board. But — so glad I was who I was…..I’ve maintained my cheerleading attitude and always emphasize the positive….and have been very grateful for my debate training as it taught me how to do research, listen, and analyze. So there you go! 🙂 But I still think I got the raw deal with my name in those days!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. ladynyo September 5, 2017 / 11:26 am

    Such an evocative haibun! I love the revealment of childhood. What a crappy time in parts. LOL! The confidence of “Lill”…as you begin college. The haiku is perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:37 am

      So glad you enjoyed! Yeah….I truly didn’t like my name in those days. Funny, because Gail Short (maiden name) and I still communicate and see each other about once every 5 years of so….she is in DC and I’m in Boston. The last time we met, she’d been back to our 50th high school reunion — I’ve never been back. She said she was frustrated because all everyone wanted her to do was lead them in a cheer and the school song, remember her as the captain of the cheerleading squad…and she was also a “brain” in high school but “hid” it well. She went on to be very high in administration in a top notch university in DC….and she said, “they just still all equate me with being a cheerleader and being on the prom court!” Hah! Funny foibles of life!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ladynyo September 6, 2017 / 11:50 am

        Life is strange. People want to remember others as they will. I have family who ignore or deny that I have published 7 books, and consider myself a writer. They consider me “Crazy Aunt Jane.” Sigh.


  19. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar September 5, 2017 / 9:47 pm

    So enjoyed this. I think Lillian is poetic and lyrical … I have Mar – GAR – et! yuck! I also think debate is “cool” and i”m sure far more interesting that being draped over a fancy car 🙂 At least now that I’m older I know that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 6, 2017 / 8:38 am

      I do realize that now too! For the record, my favorite cousin’s name is Margaret although everyone has always called her Meg. I wonder how she feels about her name????? Funny how some people choose to “wear” their given name and some choose what is called a “nickname.”


  20. Frank Hubeny September 6, 2017 / 10:04 am

    Mae sounds like a nice name, but I can sense the need for independence and frustration in your description of high school.


  21. merrildsmith September 8, 2017 / 4:07 pm

    I really liked your Haibun–paragraph and haiku. What a glorious sugar maple, too!
    I thought it was interesting how you put a literal name on your new identity in college.


  22. rivrvlogr September 12, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    Your haiku completes this perfectly.


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