Love free content? Download NowGet My Book!

Naming an Elephant

My Grandma Martha Lou tore open the boxed cake mix and poured it into the mixing bowl, allowing me to add the single egg to the batter swirling inside. I remember that day; the cake was for my twelfth birthday, the summer I stayed with my grandparents for a month.

The only gift I received was Elephana the Elephant, an eight-inch-tall stuffed animal. My grandma had chosen her from a shelf of cheap toys at the grocery store, no doubt. But even as a child, I understood that they lived on a fixed income, and the gift was a sacrifice. Elephana, named by yours truly, was the perfect moniker for such a delicate and cuddly elephant.

The only gift I received was Elephana the Elephant, an eight-inch-tall stuffed animal.

If you’ve read The Most Spectacular Traveling Box, you’ll find the name similar to my talking pachyderm, Mary Louise. The circus owner named her Elephana the Talented not only because she learned the most intricate tricks but also for her knack of picking locks, escaping the Spenwaller Traveling Circus at every stop.

Discovering her character, I started by taking her animal mindset into consideration. Being raised in a circus by demanding bullmen (elephant trainers), she’d no knowledge of a better life, merely performing tricks and daring stunts to their liking. This submission would ease the strain of a restrictive environment.

Switching from an animal mindset to a more introspective thought process would have happened the day she drank the potion made by George the Great. The change would allow her to alter her daily life events. I imagined the years of suppressing her desires would make her a stern and slightly sassy elephant. Instead of following orders, she’d give them, leaving her predetermined days in the past for a life of freedom.

So, what does that have to do with naming an elephant?

My Grandma Martha Lou was a woman stuck in the day’s societal expectations. Finishing public school around eighth grade, she continued her educational training to be a nurse just before World War II. She never wanted to be a nurse, but the trade school was within walking distance of her home. With the pressure to follow in the women’s footsteps before her, nursing school wasn’t a choice.

After the war, she married as most young women did, having eight children. Her marriage lasted 61 years until death did they part. Many today would be impressed at their long union, but I know better. Many times, Grandma Martha Lou thought of leaving the man she’d grown to dislike, but she was stuck in the mentality of ‘go along to get along’, not having a dime to her name, and nothing to pack except for a few dresses and shoes.

But what if she’d changed her mindset (like taking a magic potion), deciding to live her dreams regardless of others’ expectations? She could have gone back to school and learned a new trade. Perhaps she’d wear pants instead of dresses.

Taking his into consideration, I returned to my talking elephant. My character would change her name, take on a new persona. Elephana the Talented became Mary Louise, the strong and fulfilled. The name pays homage to all the nurses in my family. Grandma Martha Lou had two aunts living the same lifestyle—Mary and Louise. The two names, extremely popular during this time, were an easy choice for the free living Elephana.

Does that feel heavy? Yeah, I know. Thankfully, not all the names and characters in my Sophie Mae Series are so significant. Being emotionally tied to each character would stifle my creativity and the need to ‘kill my darlings.’

And that’s how you name an elephant…take a fond memory, let it simmer for a few decades, and go!