Robin D’Ann Meissner Johnson. That is my name now, but it hasn’t always been that way. My mom chose my name – Robin after a student she taught who could play the piano and sing like an angel, D’Ann as a combination of her middle name and my great grandmother’s. She said she knew it was the right name for me as soon as they laid me in her arms. I didn’t always agree, mainly because the boy who lived across the street shared the name with me, as well as Batman’s sidekick.
Grandma, from the moment I was born, called me her little “Robinbird”. She said that seeing my rosy cheeks scrunched on my tiny face and hearing the beautiful sound of her first granddaughter’s cry reminded her of the robin birds that would greet her outside her window in early spring. She drove all over town that Tuesday night trying to find the LP with “Rockin’ Robin” on it, so I would hear my name as she sang me to sleep.
My daddy always called me “Dolly”, after the country and western singer Dolly Parton. I don’t think he liked my real name much because my mom picked it out. That’s kind of how their relationship worked. It might have been because I loved to sing. Every night before bed, I would put Dolly’s record album on, stand in front of the fireplace holding my hairbrush microphone, and belt out “ 9 to 5 “. To make the picture complete, my mom would let me try on one of her blonde bouffant wigs, stuff a few socks in my shirt, and let the living room transform into my stage.
Around age 7, my passion (and role model) changed, but my love for dress up and drama didn’t. A new heroine had replaced Dolly – Wonder Woman. With her red, white, and blue body suit, wrist bands of steel, and magic lasso, I thought she ruled the world. Watching Wonder Woman on television, so expertly played by Lynda Carter, now became my favorite nighttime activity. I wore Wonder Woman Underoos to bed as many nights as I could get away with. (I think Mom bought me 2 or 3 pairs so I wouldn’t know the difference.) I counted down the days until October when Mom would take me to Fleming’s Corner Drug and purchase the “real life” Wonder Woman costume. Even though Lynda Carter had brown hair, I chose the one with blonde so that when I went out trick or treating everyone would really think I had turned into this mighty superhero. I swore I would never take off the sacred cape and red leather boots.
But I did. As I entered my teenage years, the costumes stayed hung in the back of my closet and the dress up days hidden in the far corners of my mind.
At 32, I sometimes wonder who I really am – daughter, sister, wife, mother, student, teacher, or friend. Robin just doesn’t seem to cover it all. On many days, I still feel a little like Dolly, performing up on the stage that is my classroom with the students as my captive audience. Other days, speeding from one crisis to another, I slip on my Wonder Woman costume again. Protecting my loved ones, wrapping the lasso of truth around those I consider the “bad guys”, and making sure that justice is served and all is right in the world.
During quiet family times, my grandma still refers to me as her little “Robinbird”. I don’t get to see her as much as I would like; I let life get too busy for what is most important. So we talk on the phone at least once a week, and when I visit she always wants to hear me sing and play the piano for her and her friends. I do, knowing that I bring that feeling of renewal and rebirth that she has always associated with the first robin of spring.
At home each night, I am “Mommy”, the sweetest name I have ever been given. So who am I? I am all of these personalities wrapped into one. Each persona appears when I need her the most.
Gavin McGraw sings these words, “I don’t wanna be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately.” Lately, I’m known as Robin – daughter, sister, wife, mother, student, teacher, and friend. That’s who I am and all that I want to be.