By Norris Burkes Jan 17 2020
During my adolescent years, I rarely introduced myself with verbal clarity. My soft introductions were hard to hear and communicated more doubt than any kind of confident identity.
I’d try to tell people that my name was Norris, but they’d often respond with a one-word question. “What?”
If I repeated my introduction, my inquisitors only became more frustrated.
“What? Did you say Morris?”
Even if they heard “Norris,” they might say, “Yes, but what’s your first name?” The assumption was that Norris could only be a surname.
So, by the time I graduated from high school in 1975, I’d had enough of the confusion. I anticipated opportunity to end it when I accepted a summer job at a church camp outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A few weeks later, I entered the campground ready for a change. The first person I met introduced himself and I responded with the first syllable of my middle name, “Ed.” I was not only using my middle name, but I’d adopted the abbreviated version.
I still remember his reply – “What? Did you say Fred?”
It was quickly apparent that my lack of confidence was still causing me to mumble my name. “Ed” left my mouth with no more clarity than did “Norris.”
By the end of the summer job, I’d already received a lot of grief from my mother who constantly reminded me that she wouldn’t have named me Norris if she had intended for me to go by Ed. I returned to Norris.
Out in Northern, the name experiment seemed harmless enough. After all, it was only a summer job. Since I was headed for Baylor University in Texas, I resolved to leave my AKA-Ed life in New Mexico’s high desert.
Not so fast. I wouldn’t be the only staff member from the camp headed for Baylor.
Imagine the surprise on the face of the freshman girl I escorted to the homecoming bonfire when we were greeted by two girls calling me “Ed.”
In the weeks that followed, my old camp friends continually called me Ed, compounding the confusion among my new Baylor friends. My roommates were further puzzled when they brought in mail addressed to “Ed Burkes.”
During my sophomore year, David Allen Coe’s, “You Never Even Call Me by My Name,” became a favorite song. By my senior year, I’d persuaded all of my friends to call me Norris once again – with only one exception.
That exception was the especially spirited blonde I’d met in that New Mexico camp named Becky. Through four years of college, my roommates teased me at every mail call. “Yoo-hoo, Ed!” they’d croon 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 the name Ed and it seemed as though she’d never concede. However, on Jan. 5, 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 40th 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.
Contact Chaplain Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.