When I was teaching at a notorious middle school known for problem students, one of the juvenile delinquents-to-be in my class was a student named Vernon. Now, as you may know, my dad’s name has been mentioned on occasion. Of course Dad’s name was also Vernon. So, having a student named after my dear dad was a real treat.
As I called the roll, I told each of the precious snowflakes in my class that if they preferred a shortened name instead of their full name to let me know and I would be sure to call them by that name. When I got to his name and said Vernon he quickly corrected me by saying:
You can call me Vernster.
I asked again and he said:
I go by Vernster.
Well, by this time several of his friends were laughing in the aisles. I proceeded with asking if this was his nickname and he dug deeper and said:
Of course. It’s what everybody calls me.
I asked if I called his mother would she agree that he was to be called Vernster. He quickly began backpedaling:
Oh, you don’t need to bother her. She’s at work anyway and if you want to, just go ahead and call me Vern.
I could hardly wait to get home and call Dad and tell him the story because I knew he would love hearing it. We shared that story many times and began calling Dad “Vernster.” Then we continued with adding the letters s- t -e -r to everyone’s name. It made for some interesting combinations and tongue twisters. Like Abster, Lindster, Johnster and Chuckster.
I then set to pondering a new name for our stepmother Beatrice. Since the grandchildren call her Granny, I laughed to myself and thought I would begin referring to her as “The Granster”. It has a nice, mafia-ish ring to it and I can hardly wait to tell Abby, Sissy and Kevin. We will share a good laugh and remember how much fun we can have with the simplest of pleasures.
Finally, a quick update on Vernster, my student. I ran into him a couple of years ago and he had the same big smile and greeted me like we were old friends. I reminded him once again of the young boy who wanted to be called “Vernster”. He said:
I knew you would remind me of that and I’m glad you did.
Off he went with a chuckle I could hear all the way home.