I was in the sixth grade at Chancellor Avenue School in Newark. Mrs. Friedman always gave interesting assignments (and she would be the first to tell me that interesting is such an uninteresting word) and she remains one of the teachers I remember best, all these many years later. That would have been in 1952, and Mrs. Friedman is long gone.
Teaching was her life. She was childless, so all of us who paraded through her classroom became her very own. We were so important to her that she came to school every day on the 107 bus from New York City. None of us ever wondered why she didn’t teach in Manhattan. We knew then what we still know now. Teaching in a school like Chancellor was an exceptional opportunity to be with 42 kids who wanted to learn; kids who were sponges, soaking up all she shared with us; kids who would remember her still in 2022, 70 years later.
I definitely was not one of her stars, in a classroom that was a breeding ground for brilliant kids who ascended numerous academic ladders throughout the world. But I still do remember writing a composition that she liked a lot.
This is how it started.
Mrs. Friedman’s assignment was to write a composition, with no research at all, on the topic “If I Had a Wish.” As soon as she announced the subject I immediately knew what I would write. I did not write about my aspirations to be a rocket scientist, or the first woman president of the United States. I did not write about how wonderful it would be to become a millionaire (these days I would have to think billionaire), or a Nobel Prize winner in something or other. No. My wish was much less lofty, but also totally impossible and could never have been fulfilled.
The title of my composition (a word rarely used in today’s classrooms) was: If I Had A Wish, I Would Wish My Name Were Not Rosanne.
Why such a crazy wish? Well, first of all, why not? Is it imperative that you be happy with the name assigned to you at birth? Did your parents consider all the ramifications in their choice of your name? Having lived 82 years with this name, believe me I’ve considered them all, and my wish still stands! I really loathe my name.
When you hear the name Rosanne, do you even think it’s Jewish? I’m betting you don’t. Some names just don’t ring Jewish. There may be Jewish girls (in our generation it was perfectly acceptable to be called a girl by the way) named Dolores or Mary Beth or Fatima, but not many. I never had a friend named Chris either. And I’m betting that my parents, if they could have done it over, from their resting places in Israel, would have chosen differently.
Yes, I have a Hebrew name too. It’s Shoshana, a name that was never used at all by anyone and that I’ve adopted myself only occasionally. It’s a lovely name, but it never felt authentically my own. Why this business of having an English name and a Hebrew name anyway? That’s a subject for another blog. It doesn’t really make sense at all. It’s sort of like having a kosher kitchen in the house but eating whatever you want outside. Be very strict in your own kitchen and then eat a ham sandwich in a diner? No. That’s sort of ridiculous.
One problem with the name Rosanne is one I encounter constantly. How do you spell it? Obviously I know how to spell it but I go through life spelling it over and over for others. My sister, for example, is Janet. No problem spelling that! How many ways are there to spell Rosanne? Let me count the ways: Roseanne, Rose Ann, Roseann, Rosann. And when you pair that with Skopp, which is always spelled, especially on phone calls, Scott, chances of a mistake are very high. Annoyingly so. This is not a life-ruining phenomenon but if my name were Ruth Brown, for example, I’d be minus one frustration.
With a name like Rosanne, new people, new acquaintances, usually get it wrong. Hardly anyone gets it right the first time. I’m Roxanne or Roslyn or Roberta or just about anything starting with an R — not to mention the Susans and Susannes or the Suzannes, which make no sense at all, but I’ve been called all of them. Ruth Brown doesn’t go through all of this!
My mother once told me that the reason I was named Rosanne was because she didn’t want me to be called Rosie, which she thought was inevitable if my name were merely Rose, her original choice. LOL! Of all the numerous nicknames stuck on me, Rosie was the top, the most frequently used!
Worst of all are the very specific pet names. I always have to remember who I am to certain people. There’s a group who always called me Rosebud (Marty, Rosalie, are you reading this?). Then there are all the Rosies (Beryl, that’s your chevra). Then there’s the Roxie group, Roxie being a derivative of Roxanne, which was never my name anyway! And ultimately a name that stuck and still has majority rule: Ro. Hence, when I sign an email or leave a phone message I need to remember who I am. Marty, this is Rosebud calling! If I said Rosanne he’d have to stop and think!
My husband is a leader, I suppose. He started calling me Ro from the very beginning. It’s just easier, and everyone else gets it right, right away. So my youngest great-grandson, 1-year-old Lior, now calls me Ro. So do his two older brothers, Noam and Itai. And so do all of our grandchildren and their spouses. And so do all the spouses of our own children. Sabba is plain old Sabba, with no name attached. Hence, we are known as Sabba and Ro. Easy to remember. Easy to pronounce. Easy to spell. Perfect together. I like it a lot.
But Ro is the new me, at least relatively speaking, and really not so new unless you think 60 years is yesterday. If Mrs. Friedman were to be told Ro is coming for a visit, she’d be clueless. Who? And when I wrote that composition, or call it an essay if you prefer since this is all about what people call things or other people, no one called me Ro. Even my parents, who gave me my name, were very slow to pick up on the Ro And they continued to call me by my assigned name, Rosanne. Old habits die slowly.
My parents called me Rosanne until the days they died. Mrs. Friedman would have done the same. And I guess, despite my complaints, and just to be contrary, I’ll just sign this Rosanne.
Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!