My full name, given at birth, is Rosalie Laura-Ann Simcoe. Yep, all four. I’ve always just figured my parents knew this much awesome couldn’t be contained in any less. (kidding)
When you have a longish and somewhat unusual name you end up with a variety of nicknames.
Here are ones I’ve had through the years (at least ones I can remember):
Ro, Re, Ro-Re, Ro-Lee, Rosie, Rose, Rosa, Ro-Ro, Pyro Ro-Ro, Rosa-Wee, Woda-Wee, Poser Rose, Poser, Pose, Rosarita, Simon, Rosalita, Senorita Rosalita, Rosie Roo, Auntie Rose, Auntie Wose, Travis, Poak Chop, Simcoe, Ross, Roscoe, Roscoe P Coltrane, Rojo (pronounced with a Spanish “J”, ro-ho), Rosie Rojo, Rozo, Simmy, Sim-Sim, Simcard, Simro (that’s my Jedi name, given my nerdy Star Wars friends), Row, Roe, Woe, Ann, Rosaleen, Rosaline, Roselee, Roslyn, Rosette and the every popular Rosary.
Different periods of life and groups of friends called me different names. Although I always introduce myself as “Rosalie”, I’ve always been open and accepting to the varying names. Some are just what my family calls me. Girls I played soccer with strictly called me Rosie. My college roommates called me Rose. The names change with seasons.
Here in Uganda my name is tricky for most. Rosalie is not a name anyone was heard before. Additionally, R’s and L’s are interchangeable. That’s why Rosary is commonly what I’m called.
Just for fun, I thought I’d highlight one name in particular and tell you the story of how it came to be. Actually, I was going to do two and then story 1 was so long I figured you would have had enough by the end.
Pyro Ro-Ro. 11 years old. 6th grade. Roland-Grise Middle School.
You see, we moved from Fairfax, VA to Wilmington, NC the August before I started 5th grade. That was a hard year. I seriously struggled to adjust to a new town, new school, new friends. I missed my “home”. It didn’t help things that I attended Pine Valley Elementary where it seemed like everyone I was in school with had known each other since birth. To make things even more awkward I was put in a 4th/5th grade “combination class”. Thinking back I have no idea what that was about, but I’ve just decided to remember it as a class for the highly gifted.
Then there was 6th grade. Middle school. I was thrust into classes with other 6th graders from a bunch of different elementary schools. In this unfamiliar, new landscape, we all had common ground. I wasn’t the new kid anymore. It was rad.
I got to ride the bus for the first time since Kindergarten and I thought that was awesome. To top it off my big sister, Nicole, and cousin, Marisa, were also on the bus. They were in 8th grade and they thought I was pretty okay. It was like insta-cool for me. Even though I was a lowly 6th grader I got to sit at the back of the bus with all the big kids. Marisa called me Ro-Ro and it caught on.
All this changed one fateful day. It was winter, December, and just a few days before Christmas break. I had taken a pack of matches from my house and brought them with me to the bus stop. It was crazy cold waiting for the bus and sometimes we would light things on fire or at least that’s how I remember it.
On the ride to school I was chatting it up with a 7th grader named Mindy Fish in my usual seat towards the back of the bus. Mindy was in the seat in front of me. We were trading secrets back and forth with the sides of our faces pressed up against the window. Mindy had some sort of juice gossip for me but was being coy. I guess I’d showed her the matches because she made a deal with me. If I lit a match she would tell me the big secret. I wasn’t one to shy away from a dare so I jumped on it, no problem. I broke off a match, struck it to life, immediately blew it out and threw the matchstick into a seat in front of me. Now I don’t remember just what it was that Mindy then dished to me, but I do remember being a bit disappointed after the build up.
Now, you are familiar with the smell of a lit match? Quite distinct, right? Well at the same time Mindy was sharing her not so juicy piece of gossip with me all the 8th graders around us start going, “EEEEEEWWWWWWW! Who farted?” and “Haha! Someone farted, who did it?!”, but one boy was the wiser and said, “Wait, that’s not a fart, someone lit a match!” The commotion was intense and quickly had the attention of the whole bus.
All this is going on just a few blocks from school. Our bus driver was a guy named Mike, he was kind of young and pretty cool, as bus drivers go. Before we reached the school’s driveway Mike pulled over, parked the bus and stood up to address us. He said whoever did it needed to come clean to him right now or the consequences were just going to get worse. Mindy looks at me with great concern and I motion for her to keep quiet. No one fesses up.
So we pull into the school parking lot and Mike, not allowing anyone off the bus, calls over the Assistant Principle, Mrs Hayes. He explains the situation to her, she boards the bus and starts lecturing us that whoever did this must come clean. She goes on to threaten the entire bus with two days of “out of school” suspension. Saying she will turn the bus right around and have him drop each one of us at home. Do you remember what I said before? This is all going down two days before Christmas break. The kids around me are reeling with delight. Christmas break come early!! Woohooo! But not Mindy Fish. Nope, she was overcome with a guilty conscious. The entire time this is going on I am pleading, urging her through a tight jaw and pursed lips, DO NOT OUT ME. She wanted to cry. I wanted to cry. I tried with all my might to convince her, bribe her, anything! In the end, her conscious won out.
I remember this all so vividly. As Mrs. Hayes is mid-sentence I see Mindy slowly start to rise up out of her seat, her little hand sheepishly raised. Mrs. Hayes stops and says, “Yes, young lady, was it you?” What does Mindy say? “No, it wasn’t me. It was HER.” As she says this she turns and points at me, arm fully extended, pointer finger at full attention. I was modified. Gasps rung out all around me. It was the biggest scandal Pine Valley Bus Route 2 had ever faced. I wanted to die, but I didn’t. I stood up and with feet like cement blocks and head hung low I slowly made my way to the front of the bus. Talk about walk of shame. Mrs. Hayes swiftly whisked me off to the principle’s office.
My mother happened to be a volunteer in the school’s library. She happened to be working that very morning. My sister had chosen to ride into school with her instead of on the bus that day. oh how i’d wished i had too, when i replayed that morning over and over again in my head. Mrs. Hayes sat me down in her office and went to find my mom. Unfortunately for me, one wall of her office was a floor to ceiling window that looked out onto the 8th grade patio (this is the place where 8th graders congregated before the first school bell rang). I sat there sobbing, sobbing like I never had before. All while a group of thuggish girls tapped on the window and repeatedly said, “HEY! HEY! GIRL! YOU! What you crying about? HEY! GIRL! Why you crying?” I wanted to melt into my puddle of tears. I just stared at the floor and cried.
Mrs. Hayes comes back with my mom. I am crying. My mom is crying. It was terrible. I’m pretty sure she was thinking things like, “I thought we had a good family.” All of this over a dumb lit match and a lame secret.
I was punished with “in-school suspension” for one day. In my 11-year-old mind this was equivalent to spending a day on death row. The in-school (that’s what we called it for short) teacher was a man named Mr. Whitted and gosh he was mean. On a side note, the following year he was reassigned as a 7th grade history teacher and I was lucky enough to be one of his pupils. I remember once asking him for clarification on something and he goes, “Rosalie, if you actually listened I think I might jump out the window.” Right, got it. The in-school room was in the back of the gymnasium building at the end of a hallway that always seemed to have blown light bulbs, it was dark, unnaturally cold and all around creepy. I remember people being dared to walk down the hallway and look in the room while we were in gym class. It was no mans land.
Before reporting to in-school I went to my locker to get my books and my English teacher, Mrs. Howard, met me in the hall to give me the day’s assignment. I remember her leaning down and looking at me with pity saying, “Young lady, I think you’ve learned your lesson. I think this is something you will never do again.” Well, yes, thank you, for pointing that out. I had briefly considered beginning a career as a serial match lighter, but now that you mentioned it perhaps I have learned my lesson.
So I get to in-school and I am terrified. I don’t remember for sure, but I’m quite certain I was shaking. All the kids looked so much older than me, so tough and hard. I was probably wearing a sweatshirt with a glittery picture of cats dancing and sitting next to girls in tight leather mini skirts. As I took my seat a kid behind me leaned forward and gruffly said, “What are you in for?” I sheepishly reply, “I lit a match on the bus.” A girl sitting next to me immediately perks up and goes, “Oh yeah? Were you trying to light a cigarette?” I couldn’t even form the words. I just bit my lip and shook my head, no. I had never been so scared.
I survived that horrid day. And it wasn’t one of those things that once you’ve been through it you look back and are kind of proud and maybe even can brag about it. I did not want to think, speak or hear about it ever again. But, alas, that wish was a pipe dream. As I said before this whole match lighting incident was the biggest scandal to rock Pine Valley Bus Route 2, of course, it couldn’t just be forgotten.
Now, back to how we got started, nicknames. Remember what my cousin called me that had become my name on the bus? Ro-Ro. So what does some oh-so-clever middle schooler come up with as a post match lighting spin?
I hated it. HATED. IT. Obviously, this was long before I learned the art of being the butt of a joke. I hated it so, SOO, much. Flames, flames on the side of my face….okay, sorry, that is a random reference to the early 80’s movie, Clue. Just for fun ;)
So what all this meant is I could no longer ride Pine Valley Bus Route 2. Never again did I step foot on that bus. Not once. I lost the creds as a semi-cool 6th grader. I lost my privilege to sit in back of the bus with the older kids. I started over again by riding Pine Valley Bus Route 1. I wasn’t Pyro Ro-Ro to them, I wasn’t anybody and I liked it that way.