Monday, March 7, 2016

What's in a Nickname?

Remembering my childhood name, my cousin Dave posted this photo on my Facebook Wall.

I replied: I am The Baba! It was a name I kept well hidden from my classmates, because they teased me and sang the nursery rhyme.

Baa baa black sheep have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
One for the little boy who lives down the lane...  

Aside from the fact that I endlessly puzzled over the identity of the little boy who lived down the lane and and wondered why did he need a big bag of black wool? What use was it to him? I'm sure he would've much rather have had coin, or chocolate or a toy sailboat. Besides, I didn't like being compared to a sheep. All that baaa-ing about. I figured out early on I was the black sheep. Trust me, I didn't trust Mother Goose either.

Who knew the nursery rhyme was a complaint against the the Great Wool Tax of 1275? Or that the master who was the evil Plantagenet King—Edward Longshanks, at that, the dame was the greedy church, or that the wool-sack itself was a symbol of power of the Lord Chancellor?

Now do the math—66% went to Church and State, and 33% went to the sheepherder. And if it was black wool, it was more valuable, as it didn't need to be dyed, therefore subject to higher taxation. No wonder there was a rebellion. And now the rhyme has been blacklisted for being politically incorrect. Talk about dyed in the wool. But I digress.

Then there's the meaning of teacher as in a monastic siddha leader, or father. Baba Muktananda, or Neem Karoli Baba. You can imagine what confusion that caused me during the dawn of the New Age.  By 1970 there were more babas out there than I could count. A swami from Miami? No, Marin.

Since one didn't have to be a believer or profess anything to be a follower of Baba, I followed myself. I had no mother, she was off joining communes, and no father either. By that time my own father had slipped truly, madly, deeply into the deep well of Seagram's. None of this I only drink what's in the neck stuff. His middle name was DUI.

I was a self-raised swami baby. Baba means baby in Irish. I was the first grandchild. My grandparents called me Baba.We were a multi-generational family under one roof. Halcyon days. Then my grandfather died. Hell arrived with its hand-basket of tithes. My grannie sold the house and moved to the country with me in tow. And she grieved. That's how I was raised as Baba, wagging my tail behind me.

Now it's a sharp nostalgic sensation, a whiplash to the past when someone calls me Baba now, as it's such an old name, known only by family and close friends. But it is the only name I answered to for ages.

Maureen usually meant I was in deep trouble. Or at school. Or both. At the same time. Guess that's why I grew to like the nickname Mo... A name where I was not in trouble, or about to get into trouble, or be called on for the right answer in class that I didn't know, or did know, but was too shy to answer. So much pain associated with a given name, my mother's name, she who was crazy and unpredictable right up to the very end. Enough to drive one to drink. Did I mention I'm allergic to wool?

More on the higher value of black sheep wool here, and at Wiki.
More on the original meaning of Maureen here.

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