God has been speaking to me in the last few days, and I think that He is telling me to 'fess up to my new friends about my "other" name, my nick-name—not the one my extended family or some of my family friends use—but the one I am still called by about three-fourths of the people that I know. Should you ever come to my church and meet me in person you would soon know my secret and the name I am called by all the younger people, that is those under 75 years or so. Just know that at this stage of life I truly prefer my real name, but a nick-name says so much about a person, so here we go.
The summer between sixth and seventh grade, sixty one years ago now, my little gal pals and I made a decision that would change the course of my life forever, (and we did it without prayer first, bad move.) Fervently they helped me choose a nickname because nicknames were in big at that time; Peggy became Peg, Dorothy became Dot, and my all time favorite Drusilla became Droopy (though she never knew it.)
Then—heaven help me—I became, well let me tell you first who I did not become. We thought we would go with the color of my hair as the basis for fashioning my new name, as I was Rhea Beverly and that was not good for slicing and dicing! They mulled over the name Pinky, not me, I hated that name, not the right pizzazz, and the next suggestion was Penny, nope, not quite right.
My hair was the darkest auburn that God makes yet you could see the red in it, the phrase “Auburn headed woodpecker sittin’ on a fence trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents!” somehow did not have the same ring to it as "red-headed wood………," and my friends made sure to ring that out loud and clear! So in self-defense I opted for something boyish and (having lived in Texas for awhile) western, suitable for a pre-teen cowgirl-ish person. I didn’t even consider Rhea—pronounced Ray—because it had to be new and daring. Beverly, sounded like a prissy, bossy old lady. Bev, didn’t appeal either because after you stopped saying it, you were never finished, the v just went on forever. After spending the long, hot, muggy June day in deliberation, we decided on the neat—as in cool—name of… oh you know, “Rusty”!
I thought “Rusty” would be a summer name, ha! This was a name I could swagger and sway with, I was already practicing to walk like a teenager, you remember, swing just a little and swish your skirt, not too much though. Seems like I was thinking of “cowboy” already at that tenderfoot stage, I mean ...I was in my double digit years, and I had already given up orange soda for “Coke” and that was a mile-marker on my way to maturity. Stopping right here, I must tell you that God always kept His protective eye on me, and I knew it!
I need to back up a little. At the beginning of the summer I had done some something sinful, I had stolen an apple. I always tell it that way, but actually it was several, more like three or could have been four. This was such a failure for a young Christian girl, and the guilt was awful. I had seen them while on a morning stroll, the apple tree was loaded and the ones I had stolen had fallen to the street, perhaps one was on the grass (maybe two). They were shiny, green and hard, The "Eve" in me had come out and I paid for it with an epic stomachache which I had tried very hard to forget. So by the time my name change came around and because of my active, though hidden sin nature, my crime had toughened me. The name “Rusty” seemed to fit, not soft in any way, it wasn’t especially a boy's name—more like a cocker spaniel—but I loved it; “It” was me!
I ignored my mother’s tender feelings because that was just the way it was, the way the ball bounced, and she should have never named me Rhea Beverly in the first place. Even after I took the time to explain it to her, she still could not believe it. Her—sometimes dainty—daughter chose to be called “Rusty”, it was such an ugly sound. "Oh yes!" I thought the name could burn in my throat if I said it just right! These thoughts coming from a little girl who only a short time back stood, without any prior notice, before the church and quoted many chapters of the Psalms by heart, much to the incredulous delight of her Mother, who never knew that her daughter had this memory thing down pat.
With this new name I lost my shyness forever and that formed the “new and better me”, or so I thought, and I thought about it a lot! "Ha!" I would laugh over my shoulder the way I had seen Susan Hayward do in the movies, she was my auburn haired idol. However it was a learning experience and I learned not to do the head toss while riding my bicycle because I did not necessarily get the last “Ha!” my audience did, and in those days, after the name change, I always had an audience.
Wow, how the years exploded away after the summer I had asserted myself, claimed my independence and changed my name—not for the summer but into infinity—and here I am, a God forgiven Christian, I have never stolen another apple and never had to go to jail for doing it. I found my cowboy, I am no longer tough, I have been tenderized by life and time. God has blessed the hubby and me with three more redheads their life loves and the six extra heartbeats they have given to me.
It has come to my attention recently, the very reason my nick-name was chosen has had a radical, almost insidious shift, “Rusty” no longer describes my hair so much—though from time to time it is redder than it has ever been—but my bones, my body and my thinking process, I’m actually getting “Rustier”!
When all is said and done, particularly at times when I remember the adventures God has seen me safely through; I find myself dwelling on that long ago summer, and I still think..."Yeah...it's me!"