By June Mathews
So you may or may not have noticed, but my name and the name of this month are the same. And this month, coincidentally, is also my birthday month.
It was always kind of neat to be the only kid in my class with the same name as the month as I was born in. And it’s still kind of funny when people ask me what my birth month is for one reason or another. I generally laugh and say, “Can’t you guess?” then pause a moment for the light to flicker on.
Most people catch on right away, but others take so long to figure it out, the silly little joke loses its flavor. It really falls flat whenever somebody fails to get it, and I have to explain.
Regardless of some folks’ impression that my parents were a singularly uncreative pair who found it simply too convenient to name their daughter after the month in which she was born (remember the urban legends about the twins named Lemonjello and Orangello after their mother’s hospital dessert?), the origin of my name has slightly more starch to it than that.
The truth is, I was named after my cousin June – a second cousin once removed, to be exact – who my older brother, a few years her junior, purportedly adored. So when it became known I was on the way, and he was asked what name he’d prefer for his forthcoming sibling, the answer came easily.
So I became June, born in June. And to us, our cousin became ‘Nother June, born in September, in case you’re curious about such things.
But to hear Mama tell it, her due date was actually a week or two later. So given that my birthday is three days before the end of the month, I easily could have wound up becoming June, born in July. Yes, the family was determined. No matter what month I had been born in, my name would have been June, and that was that.
Now keep in mind, this was two or three decades before prenatal sonograms and gender identification became the norm, so nobody knew which variety of baby I’d be. Yet the name, according to family lore, was all but carved in stone.
“But what if I’d been a boy?” I once asked Mama. “What boy’s name did y’all have picked out?”
“We didn’t have one,” Mama said. “We just figured you’d be a girl, so we didn’t bother with thinking up a boy’s name.”
“Then if I had been a boy, what would you have named me?” I persisted.
“Well, I guess you would have been Homer or something like that,” Mama said with a shrug.
I couldn’t tell if she was serious or not, but I’ve never pursued the matter. I’d just as soon not know if she and Daddy would have really named me Homer. Not that Homer isn’t a perfectly good name. For somebody else.
Of course there’s a male football coach named June Jones, so boy or girl, I guess my name would have sufficed. And if I had been a boy, I may have even become a big-time ballplayer, which wouldn’t have been so bad.
My luck, though, I would have been born a nerd, plagued by bullies and destined to become the subject of a Johnny Cash song in the same vein as A Boy Named Sue. But if you know the song, you’ll recall that thanks to the ribbing he took from having a girl’s name, Sue became tough as nails. So come to think of it, that may be how June Jones became a successful athlete and coach.
Either way, I’m OK with my name, despite several pleas when I was 5 or 6 for Mama to change my name to Judy, the name of a pretty teenage girl down the street.
“You’d just have to change two letters,” I wheedled.
But Mama resisted, and June I remained.
Later, though, I realized she’d done the right thing. “Judy, born in June” would have been OK, I guess, but it wouldn’t have had that repetitive “June, born in June” ring to it.