Yesteryear’s Story #3: The Power of the Middle Name

“My Family” Collage and drawing by Ayden Krenn; Kindergarten; Age 5. COPYRIGHT 2012

“Jane Helen!” my Middle Name given significant emphasis as it rang out loud and clear!

Oh, oh head for the hills!

“William Joseph!” Another indicator that immediate flight was needed!

“Mary Alanna!”

Triple the running speed and increase the range of being able to hear our names! Run for the tallest cedar tree and climb those limbs! Crawl into the clothes closet and bury yourself! Head for the woods and hide!

I do not know if the use of the Middle Name was common only among Catholic-raised children, but when Ma called for us and our full names rang out, it was an indication to us to run for our lives! We obviously were in deep trouble!  Perhaps we had not finished washing the dishes, perhaps we had not made our beds, or perhaps we had gotten into a squabble with one of our siblings (the most likely reason)?

Regardless of the offense, we were being called to face the music.

How did such a holy and significant Middle Name evolve into a fearful threat of punishment? (…not that there wasn’t any  reason for it!)

Our Middle Names were chosen from a variety of sources:  an important person in our parents’ lives, a dear relative or a Catholic saint. And there are many, many saints in the Catholic Church! I have four volumes sitting on my bookshelves, containing hundreds of pages. There is a saint to cover every situation and disaster possible on Mother Earth!

I received my middle name in honor of my Godmother, Helen Gagan, a dear friend of my Ma’s. Helen had three children, two sons and a daughter; Helen became a nurse in her later years. She and her husband, John,  drove my Ma to the hospital on the day that I was born, as the St. Michael’s area was enduring a treacherous ice storm. Pa was not available as he was repairing someone’s furnace and my Ma did not drive a car, or she surely would have driven herself!  My Ma told me several cars had spun off the road the afternoon prior to my arrival in this world and that I was, indeed, fortunate to be alive!

I remember spending some time at my Godmother’s home when my Ma had errands to run. She was a quiet and gentle lady.  I remember as a young child, feeling such awe and admiration for my Godmother. It was a special bond.

My  Middle Name had a two-fold significance. It was also a saint’s name, St. Helena of the True Cross, who, in turn, was the mother of Constantine the Great, who politicized Christianity, causing a major world shift into a more tolerant attitude towards Christianity. It would be wonderful if, in today’s world, each group of religious people, whatever their faith, would be that open and accepting of others, despite the differences. Every group of people. regardless of religion, have suffered at one period or time in history. We all know what it is to suffer and it would be a kinder world if we could all practice a bit more compassion and tolerance. It always amazes me that each religion professes to love but then has no acceptance of another if there is a variation of the theme. Oh, here I go again…on my soap box! Let us return to the story at hand~

…the story of the youngest of the brood: Jennifer Louise. Of course, the baby and the favorite. She was given the name Louise because Pa loved the name; “Jennifer” –bestowed upon her in honor of my father’s favorite grandmother.  Needless to say, Jenny did not get into much trouble at all! In fact, I think her first and middle names were always sung in delight. It pays to be the last born of eleven!

I asked my friend, who was not dipped into the Catholic waters at birth, if her mother ever used her middle name when calling for her, and she replied, “Yes, it was just the thing to do to give emphasis to the attention needed.”

My three daughters each have a Middle Name, Sara Jane, my namesake; Annie Elizabeth, both grandmothers were named Annie and Anna, and “Elizabeth” in honor of my god-daughter, Katrina Elizabeth and, of course,  St. Elizabeth; and, Lara Agnes, after Lara’s Theme –the song–not the character–from the movie, Dr. Zhivago and Agnes, my mother’s name.

I am reflecting on whether I have employed the Middle Name syndrome  with my own daughters. The jury is still out! Evidently, they did not get into as much trouble as I did!

Thus, the saga and the power of the Middle Name!




8 thoughts on “Yesteryear’s Story #3: The Power of the Middle Name

  1. This is so funny. I remember exactly that once my parents called you by your full name, your blood froze because you automatically knew you had done something wrong 🙂


    • Good morning, Jacqueline! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Loved what you had to say! I guess the Middle Name Syndrome is a universal practice! I am glad you enjoyed the story. I am hoping that the stories bring amusement–and stir fond and similar memories for others. I am going to visit your blog now!


  2. says:

    Another beautiful story .. love the picture your grandson did .. such talent he has !!No doubt your very  proud of him . So nice the picture is apart of your story ….. I really enjoyed this one .. so formila in my life too . Thank you for sharing your stories, and I do hope there are more… I will keep checking …. Jeannie


  3. A trip down memory lane for sure! Well written, Jane. I remember hearing “Patricia Ann” quite often…


  4. theburningheart says:

    In my family middle names are seldom used, however by spelling the three syllables of my name in not a friendly tone, the same effect was delivered! 🙂


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