Nita, Juanita & May

Does your name have a story? Mine does! The story of my name is that my father loved a song called “Juanita” and wanted to name me Juanita because of it. My mother was unhappy with the choice, but allowed it providing I be called “Nita” for short. So Nita I was, and remain to this day. Because I was never actually called Juanita (except when I was in trouble, of course), I have had a hard time associating it with myself. If someone comes into the room and calls me Juanita, it takes me a moment to respond. I have a brief moment of disorientation.   I’d like to get over that. I’d like to embrace this name because, really, it is a lovely name. It’s a lovely, soft and feminine name, don’t you think? And it is the only connection I have now to my father, who I am estranged from.  If nothing else, he gave me a beautiful name to be proud of.  Nita, Juanita.

I have two memories associated with my name: the first is the memory of being told how my father wanted to name me after the song but my mother didn’t, and the second is of being in the back seat of my Grandpa Steve’s station wagon, and he would be singing over his shoulder in a lovingly teasing way, “Nita, my Juanita”. I remember feeling embarrassed and happy at the same time. Grandpa Steve loved us children to death and showed us with big squeezy hugs (I remember his scratchy face) and with great big  bowls of vanilla ice cream.

My middle name is May. My beloved Nana’s (my Great Grandmother’s) name was Lucy May. Isn’t that pretty? Lucy May, Lucy May – it just rolls off the tounge. She named her daughter June Muriel May. Who named her daughter Joan Mildred May. Who named her daughter Juanita May. I think all the “J” names are a co-incidence. But anyway, since I didn’t have a daughter to pass the tradition on to, I hope that someday my son will have a daughter and include May in her name. That would be nice.

This morning I told the story of my name to a friend and then realized that never – not once in 49 years – have I actually heard the song I was named for! So she googled it. You can listen to it here: My Juanita sung by Jim Reeves. Thanks for doing that for me, Maureen. My eyes got a little damp when I heard it. It really is a very beautiful song and I am pleased and honoured to be named for it.

Nita Juanita,
Ask thy soul if we should part
Nita Juanita,
Lean thou on my heart.

Soft o’er the fountain
Ring falls the southern moon
Far o’er the mountain
Breaks the day too soon.

In thy dark eyes’ splendor
Where the warm light loves to dwell
Weary looks, yet tender
Speak thy fond farewell.

(Nita Juanita,)
(Let me linger by your side)
Nita Juanita,
Be my own fair bride.

(Nita Juanita,)
(Ask thy soul if we should part)
Nita Juanita,
Lean Thou on my heart…

7 thoughts on “Nita, Juanita & May

  1. Hi, Nita. That is a nice story. My father wanted to name me “Minerva” after his mother, who had died of t. b. before he was two. Mom didn’t think much of this, so they settled on “Jane Minerva.” (Mother had no particular reason for “Jane,” just liked the sound of it.) In elementary school I did everything I could to hide the middle name, but a few people found out about it and would call me “Minerva.” When I got older, the name didn’t bother me, but I was glad to get married and use my maiden surname “Peeples” in its stead (that was a teasable name, too). I was also glad that no one ever figured out that they could have called me “Minnie Peeples”!

    Incidentally, other sources say that the “Ring” in the second stanza, second line, of “Juanita” is “Ling’ring.” That’s more in line with how I remember the song. (My mom used to sing it to me, and I thought it was lovely.)

  2. I have the same memory of grandpa Steve, big hugs, scratchy face and bowls of vanilla ice cream. I remember he use to sneak us a second bowl after grandma Lois sent us to bed.

    I miss you Nita, I am glad we share the same memory.

      • Oh, I didn’t see this until now!

        My dad grew up in Germany, but as a child fell in love with the writings of Grey Owl. It was Grey Owl’s stories that convinced my dad early on that he wanted to live in Canada.

        Although Grey Owl was not actually of First Nations ancestry (he was British), his wife Gertrude was of Mohawk descent. Her grandfather’s name Naharrenhou was the inspiration for the name “Anahareo” which Grey Owl chose as her “Indian name”. Anahareo is my middle name.

        Grey Owl and Anahareo had a daughter, Shirley Dawn. My dad was initially going to name me Dawn Anahareo, but decided Dawn was too common. Changing it to Fawn kept the sounds and still fit the spirit Grey Owl’s writings and life.

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