Life With Ferris: Finding The Perfect Grandmother Name

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Ferris Robinson, known as Meat Ball, with her granddaughter, Mary Jane
Ferris Robinson, known as Meat Ball, with her granddaughter, Mary Jane

I started contemplating my grandmother name long before my granddaughter was born. Before she was even conceived, actually. My husband rolled his eyes and said all my bright ideas were all for naught because she would call me whatever she decided to call me. 

How about no. I knew this next generation was my chance to reinvent myself.

I’m a control freak and was bound and determined to dictate my name that would be fondly uttered by future tiny tots with angelic faces. I should have started on my own name from the get go and insisted on being called Anne Ferris. That way I would have not had to prove my identity and flailed about unraveling endless red tape over my totally ignored first name with airlines and passports and driver's license authorities. With a nice Southern double name that started with Anne, I probably wouldn’t get mail addressed to Mr. Robinson. The name Ferris is fine, but it needs a little softening.

I didn’t want to be called Granny, the name we called my mother's mom. And Nanny was out of the question, mainly because that’s what the grands call both my mother and my husband’s mother, and we’re not looking for more confusion in any area. I’ve had a grandmother name list going for a while. I like Sweetie, Ann Boyd’s grandmother name. Tina Currin is called Teensie, the name the late Bobby Caldwell called her; it’s clearly a special name to her. And Sugar, Angie Conroy’s name, is a good one, as is Coco, Carol Beard’s moniker. Grand Tad is Tad Holley’s grandfather name, and I know his wife, Alice, had to orchestrate that well in advance of the birth. It’s a good one. 

I debated over several suitable names: Fancy is cute and I like the idea of it, a fancy sort of grandmother who has antique demitasse cups at the ready (I actually do, thanks to my great-great aunt) and dresses for the day each morning (I actually don’t thanks to comfy yoga pants). I liked Ferrie, the name my sister-in-law Beth Stout and her kids call me; her name is Tootles, which conjures up all sorts of fun, energetic, whimsical activities and is absolutely perfect for her. 

That’s what I was determined to find: the name that summed me up.  Scratch that – I had to discover the name that summed up exactly how I wanted to be reinvented. And I decided upon Fifi. Fifi is an adorable grandmother name. It connotes a bit of mischievousness and a bit of worldliness and a lot of fun, all things on my grandmother-personality-I-aspire-to-bucket list. I want to be the sort of grandmother who winks at the little ones behind their parents’ backs, clicks her heels, and flies her little charge off to some magical never-never land. A combination of Mary Poppins and Mufasa was what I had in mind, someone who was up for adventure and chortled merrily all along the way.

My luxurious white bathrobe, a gift from my daughter-in-law, is monogrammed with Fifi, and I can’t remember the first time I used first person singular when talking to my granddaughter, Mary Jane. “Fifi is going to read you a book! Fifi is going to bake you a cake! Fifi is going to buy you a pony!” and other like statements are uttered constantly to teach her my name.

Which she has given me. My husband was right. This tiny toddler has named me. I said it was a mistake, that surely she was trying to say something else. But, despite the fact that she hasn’t quite formed most of her words, this one was crystal clear. She looked right at me, gazed straight in my eyes, and declared, “Meat Ball.”

Aghast, my daughter-in-law, son and husband whirled their heads around, clearly all thinking, “She did not just call her ‘Meat Ball.’”

“Meat Ball!” Mary Jane said again. 

So, Meat Ball it is. But it’s going to be a fun one.

* * *

Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.


Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson

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