An Award by Any Other NameWhit Honea
The school multipurpose room is exactly as its name suggests, a room of multiple purposes — in a school. If you have children, or were, at one time, a child, you may have been in a multipurpose room. You may have been there for any number of reasons. That’s the beauty of it.
I was in the school multipurpose room because my oldest son was receiving an award, and he didn’t know it. I found a folding seat against a retractable wall in the small section that had been allotted for parents, and I waited.
When my son walked in with his class, he passed right in front of me. His face went from surprise to confusion to comprehension in about two steps, and I saw him raise his fist in the classic air punch motion of someone realizing that they are about to win something awesome. You may have experienced something similar in your own life. Or on TV. It’s a fun moment and great for ratings.
Then the principal took the stage (the stage providing just one of the many purposes that the room allows) and started passing out praise and Pride Awards. The kids were ecstatic.
“The next Pride Award,” she said, “goes to a boy who has shown excellence in all academic areas.” And then she listed them.
“Atticus Mayyow!” she said.
“Who?” I asked the parents around me, but they were all clapping into their iPhones and none of them seemed to register that one of the purposes of a room like the one we were in was to answer my questions. I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.
I looked over and saw my son walking through a crisscrossed applesauce sea of his classmates, beaming, and climb up the stage stairs to receive his award.
If you noticed the byline on your way into this article you may recall that it doesn’t say “Whit Mayyow,” and while I appreciate your not jumping to assumptions and conclusions, I should point out that my son’s last name is indeed the same as mine, and we pronounce it totally differently.
Honea rhymes with pony, and I can count the number of times that a stranger has pronounced it correctly on two fingers. It doesn’t really bother me, the name is some weird hybrid of Cherokee, Irish, and French, and most people call me “Honey,” which is so much better than “sweet cheeks.” However, the principal isn’t a stranger, and in my 41 years of politely grimacing through mispronunciations, this was, by far, the worst.
In fact, the two times that I have heard someone pronounce “Honea” correctly it nearly knocked me over. I have a flair for the dramatic.
“Who do you know?” I asked.
Turns out they both knew someone from one branch of my family tree or another, and as such they were able to read my name aloud without crinkling their nose like the ink smelled funny.
“It’s Ho-nee,” someone usually says when I just nod to “Honey” or whatever. The mispronunciations seem to bother my friends more than my family, and while I appreciate their concern, it isn’t really necessary. I’ve been called names before and most of them never hurt me.
My boys are just starting on their path of mispronunciations, and as such I have made a point of teaching them a few tricks of the trade. For instance, it is perfectly acceptable to quickly assist someone that is obviously struggling with the sounds of our name, but it is not okay to do it in manner that insults them for trying. It’s not like people are saying our name wrong on purpose. It’s not personal.
Unless it is, and then they can go with their gut.
My son stood on the stage and shrugged his shoulders at the witty banter that the principal put forth, but all he gave back was a smile. He has a quick wit and a great grasp of humor, but he is shy when attention is genuinely given and not earned as a result of his hammed up actions. Let’s call it selective modesty.
He took his Pride Award for Excellence in All Academic Areas and didn’t even flinch when someone else’s last name was put behind his first. He stood on the stage, held up his certificate, and looked right at me. His smile stretched from one sweet cheek to the other.
I took pictures while clapping into my iPhone and tried to capture as much of the moment as I could while still being in it, which is tricky. My smile was as wide as the one on his face, and my pride, if possible, perhaps even bigger.
It was a great moment for my son, whatever his name may be.
Whit Honea can be found writing about whatever he feels like at his personal site Honea Express (Honea sounds like pony) and DadCentric. If you’re really bored you can follow him on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).
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