Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What's in a name? Especially, Petra?

While born in Elmshorn, Germany in 1951, I was given the name Petra, a common German name. My father, a Yugoslavian who had been stationed in Hamburg, Germany while in the British Army, met and married my mother on her family's small farm in Elmshorn, approximately a half hour away from Hamburg.

Well, as noted in My Schism with Ism personal essay, https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8726764980990457648#editor/target=post;postID=901407424762703361;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=1;src=postname "Not normally affable to narcissism...," I find it interesting to look back at the somewhat slow and bewildering journey in discovering and accepting my name. 

In 1952, my parents, myself at a year old, and my brother with whom my mother was pregnant, left Germany to begin a new life in America..

Those cheeks are a dead giveaway that I had been born on a farm.
My siblings who followed each year thereafter are Jaroslav, Joel, Mielan, Linda, then Jane in 1964. My brother had the most difficult time with his very Slavic name though he'd already been nicknamed Jerry by us.  Joel became Joey, and Mielan, Mickey.  As our neighborhood had been very Italian, as well as Irish and Jewish and since Milan was a familiar Italian city, he didn't receive the onslaught of name jokes. Linda and Jane had the least difficult time as they were typical American names, although Linda was shortened for my mother's, Gerlinda. 

Back to Petra. I often complained to my family and closest friends on how much I wished for a more familiar name.  I personally knew no one with that name.  My mother reminded me that there were many in Germany, but I had no relatives by that name, nor pen pals. 
In school I'd been complimented regularly by my teachers who were proud to have such a wonderful student, but a boy who sat in front of me in my 4th and 5th grade homerooms and had been left back three times and three sizes too tall and mature for his desk, would tease me daily when he'd turn with his usual greeting, "Morning Petrified;" a word I'd learned was to turn something to stone.  Ugh!  It was getting worse, not better. 

I consider myself more spiritual now, but then, I learned from the Bible, the disciple Peter, was the rock, but, yet, no connection to my name was made.  It was in the 8th grade on my first day of school, my homeroom teacher had each of us introduce ourselves to our new classmates, which pretty much contained most students from previous years.  When she came to me, she made the declaration which would change my life. "Did you know, class, Petra is the feminine of Peter?  A beautiful name, Petra." Stunned, I smiled back at her, and thought, Thank you! You don't know how much that means to me! And felt lighter and freer from the spiritual name prison I'd made for myself.  It's getting better.

I then began to research the name, Petra.  My first encounter was with Webster's dictionary definition: rock, of Greek origin. And a city by the name of Petra in the country of Jordan.  I scoured through our encyclopedia Britannica, and beheld some of the most beautiful and intriguing pictures of this very important ancient city which is now one of The Seven Wonders of the World.  I no longer felt the name, Petra, so obscure, and reveled in it for the first time.

Yet, I hadn't met another human with the name, and to make my suggested trip to Germany just to seek out other Petras was silly, but I was serious.  "I'll just have to fly there on my own, Mutti." "One day," she replied.

Then it finally happened. I was about 22 years old when I began working in Manhattan.  Down the hall from my office was another office.  As a door opened and a woman called out to another who was heading for the elevators, "Petra, I'll meet you there in 10 minutes."  As we stood near one another, "Did I hear correctly?  Your name is Petra?"  "Yes," she said. "Why?" "Because  my name is Petra and you're the first Petra I've met in my 22 years of life." "Really?  Why don't you join Diane and me for lunch." "Great."  Once we got started, we couldn't stop.  We shared our different backgrounds, she of Spanish descent (and found it's a very Spanish name), and remained friends until she married and moved out-of-state.

And since, there have been no shortage of Petra sightings. 

The Petra Doll

Made in Germany, der Kurs (of course)! And a cheeky
imitation of the Barbie doll.  Were my sister I surprised and amused when we saw it sitting on a flea market table in New Hope, PA.  I never owned a Barbie doll, and I wasn't about to start with a Petra doll!  But they're out there...

Petra, the band,
is an American music group regarded as a pioneer of the Christian rock and contemporary Christian music genres. Formed in 1972, the band took its name from the Greek word for "rock". Though they disbanded formally in 2006, incarnations of Petra have played reunion shows in the years since and released an album in November 2010. In 2013, the band returned from retirement with a new drummer Cristian Borneo and recorded a new song titled "Holy is Your Name", as well as going back on tour.

The Coloring Song, Petra

PETRA KELLY (Quick Facts)

German politician who helped found Germany's Green Party and was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1982.
PETRA FELKE (Quick Facts)


I Am On the Rock, Petra

A few of my favorite songs which truly represent what and who I am.

My Way, Frank Sinatra (my decision in caring for my elderly parents)

Non, je ne regrette rien, Edith Piaf (in matters of love and life)

A Hard Rains Are Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan (for life and the environment)

Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Bob Dylan (how I felt after coming out of a 3 day/night coma, 1987)

One Step Into the Light, The Moody Blues (my mantra after the coma)

As Time Goes By, Casablanca (written by Herman Hupfield)  (dedicated to wonderful friendships)


Anonymous said...

I have a couple of friends who have cursed their parents for their names. One is a very hippy dippy name, Love. I mean she "loves" the idea of Love but she feels a kind of pressure (perceived?) of acting Christ-like all of the time. It's weird.

I'll hang onto mine. ;)

A very fun post Petra!


Ron said...

Petra, what an utterly fascinating and awesome post! You know, I had always wondered about your name and its origins because it's such a unique and beautiful name.

"he'd turn with his usual greeting, "Morning Petrified;" a word I'd learned was to turn something to stone. Ugh! It was getting worse, not better."

Aren't some kids something? And I can relate with you because my last name is Carnavil (pronounced like Carnival) so kids were always making remarks like, "Hey Carnavil...does your father come from a CIRCUS?" It took me years to get comfortable with my last name, but now I love it.

"A few of my favorite songs which truly represent what and who I am."

Same with me, Petra. "My Way."

Love the clips you shared here. As Time Goes By and the one of Edith Piaf. AWESOME songs!

Thank you so much for sharing this post, my friend. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Have a super week!


petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Thank you, K.! How long did it take to get through it? LOL I thought I would just let go and get it out there, for this is the last time! ;))

Love is such a pretty name, but I see what you mean! Amazing how many have a difficult time if the name is unusual; speaking from experience! :))

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Am so glad you got through it, Ron! I'm sure with the saturation of information, the origins of Petra will remain forever! LOL

As I mentioned to K., since I hadn't done this before, may as well get it out there for the first and last time.

I guess in spite of the US being such a melting pot, there was a time when there were primarily Smiths and Joneses. My how things have changed.

And how empty life would be without our favorite music! :))

p.s. never knew your last name is Carnival and am now wondering where it came from?