When I was little, I hated my name. Kaitlyn. A good name for a witch. On cold, wintry, moonlit nights, I would get goosebumps listening to a choir sing “Joy to the World,” and I knew that a witch, probably named Kaitlyn, was outside hunting me.
But then I grew up and became very glad that my name is Kaitlyn because had I been born a boy, my name would have been Andrew. Nothing against Andrews, but Kaitlyn fits me much better, witch-like as it is.
My mom says my parents’ first fight happened late one night when I wouldn’t stop crying. My dad whispered angrily, “Feed her! She’s hungry!” And my mom, who knew better, whispered back through gritted teeth, “She’s not hungry!” But this wasn’t their first fight. Nor was it their second. It was most definitely their third.
My parents’ first fight occurred when a hot, tired, hungry woman on her honeymoon wanted to eat Mexican food, and her husband said that they would wait until they reached the American food, at the opposite end of the park. My mother plopped herself down and said she wasn’t going anywhere until she got food. So my dad walked to the American food at the opposite end of the park and brought the food back to my mother who was as good as her word.
My parents’ second fight was over my name. They both secretly hoped I would be a boy named Andrew. And when I wasn’t a boy named Andrew, they couldn’t decide on a name. The decision was so last minute and I was so ahead-of-schedule, that my dad misspelled my name on my birth certificate. No longer Katelyn but Kaitlyn.
I’ve always been proud of my last name, a good thing since I’m keeping it. (Unfortunately, when I do someday live up to my great name, it will be through the pseudonym KaitMarie Sammon.) I knew deep down as an elementary school student that whomever the Chisholm trail was named after was related to me, forever made famous by his name christening the trail. I knew deep down that the great hymn writer, Thomas O. Chisholm, was one of my great grandfathers. But now I know better. No one knows what the Chisholm trail is, and no one knows who Thomas Chisholm is. Not anymore.
While I did play a witch in Macbeth, probably the name I live up to the most is my middle name. Whenever my mom and her sisters get together, they joke that I got the raw end of the deal when I was named after my aunt Michelle. “No wonder Kaitlyn turned out the way she did when we named her after Michelle!” She was the sister who under- and overbaked brownies. She was the sister who decided the meal was over and began removing plates from the table regardless of who was still eating. She was the sister who ate dog poop, thinking it was a chocolate milkshake (nice one, Mom). She was the “hot” sister, as one of my mom’s students described her.
I wouldn’t want to be named after anyone else. This aunt is passionate and throws herself whole-heartedly into what she believes in. This aunt won’t let any constraints and situational setbacks control her. And while I will never be called “hot” by any of my mom’s students, at least I can be passionate about my beliefs. At least I can set aside my fear and follow where God leads me. And I can’t help being a little bit crazy. Who else would go to church in the midst of extreme fatigue and worry specifically to give a bridesmaid dress and lace to a seamstress and then leave church after choir practice only to discover at 10:30 at night that she left the fabric and dress underneath her choir seat? Who else would get out of the worry-sick bed, now filled with this extra worry concerned with finding the dress and fabric, and drive back to church in her pajamas and winter coat just to find the fabric and dress? Yes, the same person who can cook ramen to perfection.
I love observing my parents and their siblings interact. When my mom and her sisters get together, there my dad is in the midst of them. They relive old memories and share the ridiculous stories of their childhoods. I like to think I’m creative, but I definitely missed some of those creative genes. When my dad and his siblings get together, they get in loud, heated discussions of Christianity or politics. Sometimes they play ping pong or wiffle ball, but always loudly.
This is my family. These are the people who made me me. This is my heritage. And I am proud to be a Burke Sammon Chisholm.