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  • Shelly Desjarlais

His Name Is March

Updated: Mar 3

Of all the musicians in the world, Johnny Cash understood him the best. He spent hours listening to "A Boy Named Sue" on his stereo, nodding his head. I know how you feel, Sue, he would think. I know exactly how you feel.


His name was March Andrew Nettles. He always thought Nettles was bad enough, but March? Sure, some people were named after months, but they were usually April or June. March just hit the ear all sorts of wrong. He wasn't even born in March. He was born in October.


Unsurprisingly, kids teased him about his name when he was growing up. They particularly loved to joke that he should join the marching band. Oh how cute that was. He couldn’t even walk down the halls without someone singing “When the saints come marching in!” Boy, he would've killed to be called John or Sam or anything but March.


At the age of twenty-eight, he had finally found an opportunity to make things right. His wedding was only a few days away, and he had decided to take his future husband’s last name. Why not change his first name at the same time? He could go by his middle name instead. Andrew Smith sounded far better than March Nettles.


At the rehearsal dinner, everything was running smoothly. March saw how his future in-laws fussed over his fiancé, Neil, and he was hit by a pang of sadness. His parents were long since gone. He wondered if they'd be happy for him and the love he had found. It was hard to say, as March scarcely remembered them.


Before everyone cleared out of the banquet hall that night, March spotted his grandfather hanging around the exit. The elderly man had coke bottle glasses, which made it impossible to hide the stray tears in his eyes. March approached with a level of concern.


"Gramps? You all right?"


"Fine, fine. It's just...look at you. All grown up. Getting married. And to a good person too. Your parents would be so happy."


"You think so?"


"Yes. They'd be so proud of you too. Say, is it true that you want to change your name?"


"How did you—”


"Please. I know everything. It's your right to change it. But you should know that name was carefully chosen by your parents. It meant a lot to them."


"Really? It’s always seemed like an afterthought to me. Like they couldn’t think of anything, so they threw darts at a calendar."


His grandfather chuckled at the imagery. “No. They thought long and hard about your name. They wanted it to mean something.”


“You never told me that.”


“I’ve never had a reason to. Until now,” he sighed. “Tell me this: What happens in March?”


March considered the question. “Well, sometimes Easter happens in March. We change the time…”


“And it’s the first day of spring. Spring represents rebirth. It’s about life springing from the deep chill of winter. That’s what you were to your parents. Before you, they were falling apart. Your father was hitting the bottle every night, and your mother was in a severe depression. You motivated them to become the best people they could be. For that, they were so grateful.”


“They were?”


“Oh yes. If that accident hadn’t taken them away from you, they would’ve told you that you saved them. They’d have told you every day.”


Discreetly, March wiped a tear from the corner of his eye with his knuckle. “Thanks for sharing that with me, Gramps.”


“Of course. I better get home. I’m missing Jeopardy,” his grandfather grinned. He gave March a warm embrace. “See you at the wedding, kid. I’ll be front and center.”


“You better be. Goodnight.”


As his grandfather left the hall, March considered his words. If his name really meant so much to his parents, could he change it? He despised it with every fiber of his being, yet the meaning tugged at his heart strings. His parents couldn’t be with him in person, but maybe a piece of them could live on.


Just a day later, March met Neil at the altar. There wasn’t a dry eye in the venue that afternoon. Everything went perfectly, especially their personalized vows. March saw his grandfather sitting in the first row in his hideous tuxedo, the one that was twice as old as he was. It was his grandfather who raised him. Still, his parents didn’t feel far away. It felt like they were there that day too.


After the ceremony, March and Neil took the dance floor for their first waltz as a married couple. Somewhere in the middle of the song, March told Neil the news. “I’m not going to change my name.”


“No?” Neil asked.


“I’m still taking your last name, of course. I just meant that I’m going to keep March.”


“Why the change of heart?”


March felt a small smile come to his face. “Gramps. He told me how much my name meant to my parents. I feel like by keeping the name I’m keeping a part of them with me. Besides, how many people are named March? It makes me stand out.”


“It sure does. I was hoping you’d keep it. You’re too unique to be just another Smith.”


“Thanks, hon. I need you to promise me one thing.”


“Name it.”


“We are not going to name our kids after months. We can name them anything but a month. Promise?”


Neil pulled a sad face. “But I was hoping for January Smith.”


“Ha-ha. Cute. Wait, you are joking, aren’t you?”


“Yes, I’m kidding. I was actually thinking we could go for days of the week instead. Sunday Smith sounds good.”


March laughed at the sound of it. “Funny. You are funny.”


“I try.”


When they spun around, March spotted his grandfather. “Oh, I need to tell Gramps I’m keeping my name.”


“Go on. Drag him onto the dance floor. I’ll grab my grandma. They’ll be adorable tangoing together.”


Chuckling, March went to his grandfather’s table. He patted him on the shoulder. “Hey, Gramps. I wanted to tell you I’m not changing my name.”


“I didn’t think you would,” his grandfather smirked. “That was a beautiful wedding. Really.”


“C’mon. I’ve got a date for you. She’s a real looker, and she doesn’t need a cane.”


His grandfather had a mischievous grin. “Oh, I like that in a lady.”


March helped his grandfather reach the dance floor. They put him with Neil’s grandmother. The two hit it off as they slowly danced. Neil and March started their second dance of the evening. It couldn’t have been a better moment.


His name was March Andrew Smith, and it was perfect.



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