What’s in a name?


Little by little, I’m reclaiming my given name.

‘Jacob Russell’ is retired.

My earliest memory of name switching–3 years old. Lived in a little, two story, two bedroom house with my maternal grandmother, Lorain (Gramma Rein… who I watched die of a stroke, age 12, alone in our family cottage at Bass Lake) with my aunt, Carolyn–not yet 16. Murdered by her husband, in 1965… I washed the blood from the basement floor at the bottom of the stairs where she fell after he stabbed her 23 times… and my uncle Will–who was only 16. I did not like being called “Little Will.”

My middle name, Russell, was my father’s first name. I guess they figured I wouldn’t like being “Little Russell” and better, so they called me ‘Rusty.’ That was my name through childhood, and in my family–and to my summer friends. At school, (which was my prison…I lived only for the summer with my real friends) I tried Willard, briefly. By Jr. High, I accepted Russell. I took on “Jacob Russell” when I began submitting poetry and stories–in my early 40’s. That stuck for another 30 years, until I went to SMS for the first time… I needed a Faerie name.

The last time I saw my childhood friend, we were watching a kid catch strange little fish off the quay in Ludington… gobys. That name is forever linked to his memory, who died shortly before I went to SMS. My friend from age 3… inseparable friend, 6 months younger, and fearless protector while I was still in Chicago. I didn’t know it then… but I was in love him. He comes to me in dreams. That name is forever.

When I began to make art again, and thought how I would sign it–I had gotten news that my uncle Will had Altzheimers. He had been the big brother I never had, an artist and mentor. Introduced me to Kafka and Whitman and Alan Watts. Willard was also the name of my grandfather, who died 2 weeks before I was born. I will sign my art, “Willard.”

Have signed almost 1200 pieces of Art, since… Willard

“Willard” … so, 6 months short of 80… it’s all right to be, Willard now…

but you can call me Goby. 🙂

One thought on “What’s in a name?

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