Years ago, in a land far away, on the magnolia-lined streets of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, I walked my date home to the dorms after a particularly rousing freshman bonfire and pep rally.
It was our first date, and I’m sure I was hoping there’d be more flame-filled nights.
That’s when it happened. A group of students passed us and one of them waved at me, “Hey Ed!”
My date stopped; fixed me with a stare and tapped her foot as she waited for some kind of explanation of how she had left the dorm lobby with Norris, but was returning with Ed.
The explanation took us back to the previous summer where I had worked in a church camp called Glorieta Baptist Assembly Grounds in New Mexico.
It was there I stumbled on the idea of using my middle name, Ed. There was no reason really. I just saw an opportunity to audition a name change. I’d always wondered what it would be like to be someone else and since I couldn’t be a superhero, I figured Ed would do.
But, by the end of the summer job — with a lot of encouragement from my mother, who reminded me she wouldn’t have named me Norris if she had intended me to go by Ed — I returned to Norris.
Out in the middle of New Mexico, the name experiment had seemed harmless enough. After all, it was only a summer job and I was headed for Baylor University where I figured I would leave my aka Ed life behind.
Not so fast. Back in the dorm, friends from the New Mexico camp continually would introduce me as Ed, compounding the confusion. My roommates were further confused when I asked them not to discard any mail addressed to “Ed Burkes.”
By my senior year, I’d persuaded all of my friends to call me Norris again — with only one exception.
That exception came from an especially spunky blonde I’d met in that New Mexico camp. And through all four years of college, my roommates often would return from the mailbox with one of her letters. “Yoo-hoo, oh Ed!” they’d call, in a falsetto voice. “She wrote you another letter.”
It took a lot of persuasion to get this girl to call me Norris. She preferred Ed and it seemed as though she’d never concede, but in January 1980, she finally made a pledge to forever call me Norris.
“Norris,” she said, “I take thee to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
Happy 27th anniversary, sweetheart. You’ve always known who I am, even though I often lack a clue. Your love changes me because it honors the best in me.
It is a love for the person God created me to be, not what I should, could or would have been. And in that love, I find the most cherished reminder of the love of God.
And that is something Ed and Norris will cherish forever.