Saturday, February 07, 2004

Introducing Myself

My Christian name, as my grandmother would say, is Raymond Lawrence Bridges. If I were Mexican (and we almost were) it would be Raymond Lawrence Bridges y Droddy, which would be more fair because such a big part of my story comes from my mother. I think she ought to get more credit. Since I was raised by my mother's mother for so many years, I think I should also link to her name, Ashworth. So I would be Raymond Lawrence Bridges y Droddy y Ashworth. That still would not tell enough of the tale. On my own, I would add Perkins because of the essential role that name has played in my story. And I'd add Bunch, too. I have such a beautiful image in my mind of the two Bunch sisters, Anna and Mary. Because I know they added steel to my inherited character I would include their name as well. I am rich in the number of names I can claim as my own.

My father's name was Lawrence. We lost him in 1952 in a mismatch between a semi and an automobile filled with people hurrying home to Christmas late one night in East Texas. With his death though, I lost his story and his family's stories. I have since sought out and heard many of his family's stories, but I didn't grow up with them, so they don't resonate as strongly on a personal level. So the Lawrence Bridges part of my name is my father. Raymond was pulled from thin air. There is no history of it in either of my families. My father, who was only given one name when he was born, started using Raymond with the intention of making me a junior. He died before he got to do that.

Over my lifetime, I have been called at least a dozen variations of my several names. My earliest remembered name is Sonny. When I started school, I was introduced to Raymond. It took me months to get used to it. After living a couple of years in Houston, I moved to a small town near Houston. The kids at my school started calling me Houston. That lasted until I went back to Houston, a couple of years later. The kids in Houston saw me no different from themselves and went back to calling me Raymond. When I moved to California with my mother and sisters in 1963, I was called Ray. I heard Tex a couple of times, but thank God, it didn't stick. Ray sounded fine to me, cool even. I was in California now, a new person. A new name felt good.

Recently I outgrew the name Ray. I began considering it a name given to me by others and without reason. It was just laziness of language that gave it to me. I began encouraging people to use Raymond with mixed results. In writing I would use Raymond Lawrence Bridges which sounded much better to me than just Ray, but I didn't think it reflected me as I had come to see myself. I even invited a few of my cousins who have always known me as Sonny to go back to using Sonny. That didn't work either.

I decided that I could choose the name by which I wanted to be known. Looking first to all of my called names over the years, I chose r. Houston Bridges. I was born in Houston. It was used with great affection by good friends the several years it was used. I live in California, but I have retained that Texas and Southern flavor that expatriates cultivate so meticulously. As I thought about it, I started to become comfortable with the name. Within weeks of introducing the name to my close friends and immediate family, it began to take..

You can continue to call me anything you want. As long as I know you're talking to me, I'll answer. I have always been known as Sonny and will always respond to it. It identifies me from a particular time in people's lives. I will always be Raymond Lawrence to my Aunt Melvin. Most of the kids from high school will always know me as Ray. I have started signing my stories and letters as Houston. The r is retained in lower case because I'll be Ray to a lot of people for a long time, but it also has another value known only to me.

Y'all say hi to Houston.

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