Day 23,755: What’s in a name?

There has only been two times I’ve met people with my same last name: One was in college and one was on a bookshelf. It’s ironic, since my last name is not unusual and also a made-up name. It was made up by  a lawyer in consultation with my dad, who when becoming naturalized as an American citizen, decided it was time to have a more American family name.

As it turns out, I’m the only one in my original nuclear family who was born and bred with this last name. The entire family prior to me had a different last name and all became Bronsons at the same time, well  before I came along. The two non-family Bronsons I subsequently encountered were also born with the name and are slightly younger than me.

College Sister

The first non-family Bronson I ever ran into was in my sophomore year in college. She was a blonde named Barbara. We already knew of each other since we saw each other’s names in various card files whenever we went to register for classes, and people had already asked each of us if we knew of each other. And so, when we finally did meet each other, it was as if we were long-lost relatives and we decided immediately that —  since neither of us had a family sister nor belonged to a sorority — we’d adopt each other. We were last name sisters not alike in any way except in name only. When people would ask us why we didn’t look alike, we quickly answered that we took after different sides of the family.

I’ve since lost track of her. She got married and moved away before either of us graduated from college. Her husband was studying transportation, and I think of him often as I now work for a Transportation Authority. I’m sure that talking to him during my early college days helped me be open to many of the transportation issues, challenges and theories I now pay attention to as part of my own career. I have no idea where they are now and can’t remember his last and her married name, but I remember them fondly.

Bookshelf Bro

The second Bronson has the odd first name of Po. I found him in a North Jersey bookstore when roaming the bookshelves as I was ought to do. Po’s book (I feel I can call him by his first name), had the intriguing title What should I do with my life?, but I would have bought it regardless of title. It was a namesake obligation even if he,too, bears no family resemblance.

I subsequently never read the book. It took its place on my bookshelf  just as other Bronson titles have honored places on my bookshelf. Most are math textbooks written by both real-life brothers. One is a foreign affairs book written by my niece.  One is fiction written by my nephew. Luckily there’s space on the shelf, because there may be others coming soon by yet other close relatives that will be even more proudly displayed once published.

Now, being home with a broken elbow, I’ve committed to cleaning up a bit when possible. This includes pruning my bookshelf. Today, I pulled Po’s book off the shelf intending to donate it with clothes and other growing items in a give-away bag in my bedroom. And then I did what you never should do when you’re trying to get rid of something. I opened the book.

I didn’t start at the beginning. The book opened to a random chapter with a story about a woman who started her career at age 65. It’s a Crone’s story so I couldn’t ignore it. She had been college educated early in her life, but had five children at various intervals and wasn’t able to start her career until her seventh decade. As a Crone, her new Calling was not about money, same, or fortune. It was about making a difference.

And so I sat down and restarted the book from the very first page. I realize I was meant to read it all along — just 15 years after I bought it. Or, as baby bro Po writes in his introduction: “Most of us take the slow road, no shortcuts.”


Ongoing Focus on Commonsense Gun Reform: As much as current NRA advocates would like to make the gun debate about the Second Amendment, it isn’t. It’s about sufficiency and calling something by its correct name.  How much is enough? This is a concept explored by Lynne Twist in her online course and book The Soul of Money. In our culture of never enough money, time, or things, is it any wonder we also can’t agree on how many are enough guns or enough innocent deaths from poor gun controls? So don’t debate the Second Amendment. Start with practicing having enough of something else in your own life and then asking others to do the same. Perhaps the concept of sufficiency — a commonsense practice — will begin to catch on and also permeate our gun consciousness. Unfettered gun ownership is greed –gun greed– and even if called by some other name becomes a deadly sin.