Friday, November 18, 2005


Today, little Elma came to see me for the first time since her birth on October 8th. She is the granddaughter of my children’s nurse, Edith. Ma Edith named the baby after me with no objection from the parents, who came from Harbel today to present my namesake to me.

It was both amusing and beautiful to hold a tiny girl in my arms and call her by my name. Elma. There are not too many of us in this world. Here, in Liberian English, I am often called "Emma." Some funny versions are "Edmon", and, by one little boy long ago, "Yellowma."

The day Ma Edith asked me to write my name down so that they would get it right on the birth certificate (thank goodness!), I taught her how to pronounce it, and smiled at the memory of a naming disaster avoided...

After a recent Teacher Training Workshop at which I was an instructor, a participant said he admired me so much that he was going to name his first daughter after me. I was flattered. “Yes,” he said, nodding, “I’m going to call her Elegant.” My smile got even bigger then, and I had to explain to him that my name was actually not Elegant. On the first day of the workshop everyone had chosen adjectives to go along with their first names. Where had this guy been? Did he really think our names were Mighty, Progressive, Hardworking, and so on? Or did he not mind naming his daughter with an adjective? Anyway, I was glad we got it straightened up in time to save that future little girl the stress of having to live up to her name; Lord knows what a hard time I had trying to be elegant for ten days in a row.

My namesake will come to see me every day while she is here in Monrovia visiting her grandmother. It's funny--Ma Edith calls her Elma, but still calls me Emma.

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