He: Unless you shorten it to M like in James Bond.
Me: There's always that.
He: You know you really could be in James Bond ...
(for an instant I'm trying to imagine myself as one of the deadly slinky femme fatales -- uh no)He: ... you can be stern and all in charge like M.
Me: That's true.
And we ride along beside each other in silent acknowledgement until I can't resist . . .Me: So how do you know I'm not M?
I grin and raise my eyebrows.He: Mom, I know you're not.
Me: Are you sure?
He: You can't be. You weren't born in the UK. You don't even talk like that.
Me: Or I may just be very good at accents. How would you know?
He: I'll ask Grandma.
Me: Unless she's in on it too.
Me: Maybe we're a ring of international spies.
He: Then Grandpa!
Me: If Grandma is in on it, don't you think Grandpa would be, too?
He: Okay, listen. You're not a spy.
Me: Or I'm a very good one.
He: You can't be. Young sees you at the high school every day.
Me: No, actually, he's been at Outdoor School this week. He hasn't seen me at all.
He: MOM! You are not in MI6!
Me: Good boy. That's exactly what I want you to keep telling people.
Mom, of course, is the name I've had now the longest and the one I respond to most instinctively. At the store, someone else's child will say "Mom" and I look up, while I still have to remind myself at work that "MJ" means they're talking to me.
Or they’re talking to the persona I put on each workday along with my chunky-heeled, classy-looking high-heeled Bjorn shoes, a persona I’m breaking in and hoping to fit into.
MJ who is capable, creative and eager. Ambitious for this little town, undismayed by nay-sayers, down-to-earth but optimistic, promptly responsive, friendly and full of life. As alert, to-the-point, and on her toes as those two upright open letters themselves.
Inspired, I am sure, by the confident and clever MJ of my girlhood’s favorite comic strip, Spiderman’s more than equal partner. I love it that, though written at first only as a foil to burnish the paler virtues of the “real” love interest, snappy, self-propelled MJ insisted on persisting, in time to win her own irreplaceable spot right at the center of the story.
I’ll never be so va-va-voom, but setting out into the workforce as a silver-haired mother of married children, I was glad to borrow some of MJ’s brisk concision, some of MJ's easy assurance. And it’s not as though I wantonly renamed myself. After all, MJ is the name my college roommates wrote their notes to, the name my younger brothers and sisters would greet me with (Hey MJ!) on my return each summer. It was the name I've always used to talk myself out of a slump (Okay, MJ, next step. You can do it.)
So that every time my workday moniker is used now, it’s like an echo of that chipper voice of self-encouragement, an echo of that hearty affectionate hailing, saying to me, like the billboard I saw as I came up over the hill right before I heard I’d landed the position,
MJ would say just that.