I am a prince. I have a crown, a brown winged horse named Francis, and a wand that can be refilled at the factory when the magic runs out.
My promotion in rank was bestowed upon me by Princess Katherine. She has a pink dress with silver sparkles, a white winged horse, and, of course, a refillable wand. She is six years old.
During our brief visit last week, Katherine and I flew to the wand factory, the crown factory, and the shoe factory. We sampled sparkly chocolate chip cookies at the cookie factory. We visited the cake factory, where I had a slice of melon cake and she had vanilla. I wanted chocolate, but Katherine said they didn’t have that.
The last time I saw her, Katherine was toddling around in the aisle of Faith Presbyterian Church, holding a sippy cup, and I was lining up in the foyer waiting to be married. We were both too busy to engage in in-depth conversation.
So I took this opportunity to remind her that, in addition to belonging to the nobility, we also share a name. As we flew on horseback, I told her about the four other Katherines in our family, beginning with her great-great-great-grandmother, Minna Katherine Stagner Veazey. She won’t remember, of course. But perhaps when she’s older, someone will remind her.
While Katherine and I toured factories, four-year-old Jonathan demonstrated his skill at sleight of hand by making a quarter disappear (“Don’t look…Now look–it’s gone!”). He said he can turn a penny into a quarter, an enviable alchemy in the current economic climate.
Christine, who is ten, visited on the other side of the room with her grandparents and her aunt. She is a poet, songwriter, author of an award-winning story, and talented mimic. Her monkey face is one of the best I’ve seen.
Like Katherine, Christine and Jonathan carry forward names from earlier generations.
I hope as they grow older, these children will hear all the names that have been passed down over seven–and more–generations. Even more, I hope they hear the stories that go with the names.
They won’t find winged horses or crowns or disappearing quarters, but they’ll hear about sailing to Cuba, and being kissed by President McKinley, and riding handcars up and down railroad tracks, and farming during the Depression, and hearing peacocks scream on the Quadrangle at Fort Sam Houston.
They’ll hear about grandmothers trying out hula hoops on Christmas morning and aunts demonstrating the Charleston.
They’ll hear about women holding families together when husbands and fathers die too young or go away to war.
They’ll hear about Marys and Elizabeths and Varas and Crystals and Barbaras and Bettys and Lynns and other Katherines.
They’ll hear stories of courage and sacrifice and laughter and love, every one of them worthy of beginning, “Once upon a time…”
Names are important. They identify the people who came before us.
But telling stories is like waving a magic wand.
Telling stories makes them live forever.