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  • Brownie's Version

What's in a Name



Later, on the morning my mom died, I went out to breakfast with my son, well brunch really, although the word 'brunch' has the ring of a celebration to it, and we hardly felt like celebrating. We were hungry though, despite our grief. Seated in a busy, all-day breakfast cafe waiting for our order to arrive, my son noticed a Brownie camera up on the shelf behind me, just like the one that was in the toy box when he was a pip-squeak. That particular camera had been found by my father, left behind by a previous owner in one of the houses we lived in when I was a small child. It was a working camera back then, when fitted with a roll of film, enough for maybe 10 or 12 shots. My siblings and I learnt to take pictures using that camera, with its satisfying happy click, before we graduated to something more 'modern' like the 'Polaroid Swinger', which advertisements claimed 'was almost alive, at only 24 dollars and ninety-five!' It was comforting to be sitting in close proximity to a Brownie camera that morning - like a nod from the universe telling me that it was now time to fully embrace my alias. My first art instructor, Stan, had started calling me Brownie way back when, which always made me laugh and lighten up. Years later I told my husband and so he, too, started calling me Brownie, and then just this past year, my mom told me that a great uncle on the Brown side of the family had always called his wife Brownie. Who knew! It can be an honour, yet confusing, to have the same given name as a parent, especially as in my case, since I'd also kept my maiden name when I got married. This has led people to call me Mrs. Brown, which has felt like they're referring to my mother. And while my mom was Big Anne or Anne Senior, I was always Little Anne or Anne Junior, which made me wonder when I'd ever grow up! Don't get me wrong, I love being named after my mom but I have wondered over the years if I needed an 'aka' in order to fully come into my own, considering how melded I was to her. So there we were, my son and I, stunned by her speedy departure after a long life, yet strangely buoyed by the presence of that good-natured Brownie holding space above us.