People always asked if I was born at Christmas time. To which my mother would say, “No, but she was conceived right around then.” It was her way to try to get a rise out of near strangers with a snappy answer to a well-worn question. If folks stuck around long enough, she’d elaborate. (Something about too much champagne and something left in the nightstand drawer. Or maybe my sister was champagne and I was beer. We were planned, supposedly, Fifties-style. Alcohol just muddled the calculations.) I was in the not planning a family yet portion of my twenties before I did my own calculations—-subtracting possible gestational months like only a woman does—-and figured out that the Christmas Joy thing was just a snarky ice breaker. Given my actual dates, I should have been called July. Or, in keeping with my mother’s TMI tidbit, Autumn.
I know this because I later gave birth to my own daughter in July, nine months after a memorable Oktoberfest party. I should have actually been a July baby, too, but rushed on the scene seven weeks early to be born in May a few days after my sister’s second birthday. (Surprise, here’s your baby sister! Bet you thought you were just getting a Raggedy Ann.)
Another side to the story was my mother’s desire to give me and my sister short first names. Our last name, McGranahan, was enough to not need any extra syllables in front of it. So she was Jan. (Not Janet or Janice.) And I was Joy. (Not Joyce.) We get asked often enough if we’re “just Jan and Joy” to make us tempted to start a book with that title.
“Your mother told me so many times how glad she was she gave you the right name,” my Nana said. It was right after Mum died suddenly, and I was grasping at all the old stories, hearsay or not, desperately wanting to keep everything about her in the present tense. I still am. And each time a new acquaintance remarks on what a nice name I have, I tell them with a wry smile “Thanks, I try to live up to it.” I’m being what Nana would call “half holy and earnest”—-inherently snarky and hopefully honest. Because at this point in my life, it’s not about phonetics or Christmas carols, it’s my mission—-my overarching goal, soul’s purpose, and heart’s desire. Living up to my name is my legacy, what I want people to say about me, past tense inserted, Spirit willing, only after I’ve grown old enough to be considered wacky and eccentric in my strategies to fulfill my mission.
For more autobiographical Q&As than you’ll have time to read, see
Building my life story one question at a time