First assignment in my Creative Writing I course. Describe one’s name (first person – goal is to work on our narrative voice), what it means, how we feel about it, etc. 1 page max, double-spaced.
My mother was adamant. I required a name that sounded good in both English and French. I was to be a bilingual baby. A post-referendum baby, freely moving between cultures in Montreal. I was to have a name that allowed for easy integration. “Nicole”, she decided. A tribute to one of her dearest friends, and an excellent French author. A perfect name. Perfect until my father tried to say it with his American accent. “Ni-coal”. As though Father Christmas had permanently registered me on the naughty list.
How I then ended up with the name June is unclear. It does not translate into French: juin. Not a beautiful sound, nor an acceptable name. Growing immersed in the French culture in Montreal, all through schooling and career, I’ve become resigned to having my name massacred. Zhooone. Dgoane. Jane. Painful. What is your name, they ask me. “June, comme le mois. Yes, the month. That one. April, May, June. My name is June. Yes, unusual. Yes, I like it too. Thank you, how kind of you to comment.”
The reasons for this unusual choice are multiple. Saint June was the first female apostle – something my mother proudly reminded me of: of course the Catholic Church didn’t recognize her as a saint, but that was because they were not as open-minded as the Orthodox Church, obvi. The Catholic Church for centuries claimed that she was in fact a he, creating a Latin male name Junius that does not exist in any Roman records other than in Latin translations of the New Testament. My mother solemnly explained to me, aged 4, that navigating the world as woman wouldn’t always be easy, but that a strong woman always managed to eventually have her story recognized, if she didn’t live to tell it herself. I listened, but really I just wanted to eat a cookie. Little did I realize that the feminist notions my mother preached to me as a preschooler would shape my entire life, and that I would tirelessly campaign against gender bias in the workforce before it was cool for people my age to do so. Saint June probably fist-pumps me from up in Heaven, while she hangs out eating cookies with my Ma.
June means youth. My mother prayed I would never have cause to lose my innocence early, that I would always retain the wonder with which children view the world. While I cannot say that I have, I can say that I am grateful, always – my spirit feels young despite some of the heavy blows the Universe loves to dish out haphazardly throughout life.
I was a pre-teen when it dawned on me that my father’s eldest brother’s ex-wife’s name was June. They divorced right around the time my parents got married. My father was frequently called upon to babysit my cousin, a toddler at the time. He refrained from taking sides during the divorce… except not really, apparently.
June: a name of feminism, independence, youthful gratitude mixed with enough spite to avoid naïveté. It suits me just fine.