When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother,
What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me:
Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que Sera, Sera.
What will be, will be.
(Written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans. Signature song of Doris Day.)
When I was just a little girl, my mother told me a story of how I had been mixed up with another baby while in the hospital. She said they brought another baby to her room. She told them it was the wrong baby, it wasn't hers. So they took it back and brought me to her.
There were many times in my young life when I just felt like I didn't belong in my family. I was too different from my brother and sister. It was then I wondered if the nurse had been right and Mom was wrong - was that other baby really hers? And if so, who did I belong to? My feelings must have been similar to those of a child learning they had been adopted.
So many things shape who we are. How would I be different if I had been named something other than Ramona Irene? I used to hate my name. It was too different from the other kids. I wished my name had been Carol. (In time, I came to love my name.)
If I asked Mom if I was pretty, she would answer: "Pretty is as pretty does." If she saw me looking in a mirror, she would tell me to "quit before you get conceited." And nothing I ever did was good enough for my dad. What if I had grown up with a little more self-esteem; self confidence?
What if I hadn't had a little sister with whom I always felt as though I were in direct competi-tion?
(This photo of Betty Ruth and Toby the cat along with cousin Janet Kay on the right, was taken at their Grandpa Joe Ridnour's on his fifty-first birthday, June 11, 1947.)
Betty never got to find out who she might have become. Her death at the age of 28 affected all the rest of her family members. For a few months afterwards, I even tried to be who I thought she had been for my mom and dad - driving to their place every weekend, trying to somehow fill the hole her death had left.
Would my children be the same if they had been named something else? Before I ever married, I had decided I would have four children - two boys and two girls. I would have a blond boy and girl and a brunette boy and girl. The blonds would be Douglas Sumner and Karene Denette. The brunettes were going to be Anthony Gerard and Roxanne Rene.
The only one of those names which was used was Douglas Sumner, my firstborn son. But he wasn't blond, so he really should have been Anthony Gerard. Would Doug be a different person if he had been Tony?
While expecting my second child, I wanted another boy. By that time I had discarded those other three earlier names. My second child would be Erik Deane if a boy and Lisa Rene if a girl. I had a girl. It seemed every other girl born in the late 60's was named Lisa. Much as I loved that name, I wanted my little girl to have a less popular name. She became Kari Leigh. I liked the name Carrie - but the spelling was too old-fashioned. And Lee was too plain. Would my lovely daughter be a different woman if she had been a Lisa?
Someone else in the family chose the name Eric for their little boy before my third child was born. Whether a boy or girl, I wanted to use my parent's first names for the middle name. So we needed something to go with Ruth or Louis. I don't remember now how I landed on the name Abigail for a girl - Abigail Ruth sounded good. She would be Abbie or Abby, anyway.
Deciding upon a boy's name was harder. Finally, watching a football game one afternoon, we heard the name Preston. It felt right. Preston Louis became my third and final child. His name never got shortened to Pres. And while Preston was an unusual name in the early 70's, it started becoming more popular a few years later.
So many things shape who we are: names, parents, siblings, spouses, circumstances. We can change our names if we don't like them. I could be Mona (never!) or use my middle name. But I believe, in our souls, we are who we were meant to be.