Whether we like it or not our lives are full of labels. I’m not talking about the kind you find stuck on cans, jars, toys, etc. I mean the labels others create for you or you for others. Some are earned, respected. Other labels are slapped upon us meant to be derogatory.
Reina. That’s the first label I can recollect. I’m the oldest grandchild on my father’s side of the family. My grandfather, Avi, called me his reina, his little queen, as I’d stand on his feet and we’d dance across the floor while he sang in Catalan. It’s one of my earliest prized memories.School Nerd. This label was in the works when my parents taught me to read at the age of three. Its fate was sealed when I asked for a dictionary for my fifth birthday. I recall sitting on the bottom step of our staircase and crying because I didn’t know how to use it. My dad laughed when he found me, then patiently taught me how to look up words even if I didn’t know how to spell them. The first word I ever looked up was elephant. The label didn’t really stick until second grade when I had to wear the dreaded glasses with lenses as thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle. The fact that I also have huge teeth didn’t help either.Oreo. This could be good or bad. At the time it was awful but I laugh about it now. We moved to Georgia when I was eleven. I am half Mexican and inherited the tan skin. My first day of school was spent answering whether I was black or white. Those were the two labels my peers were familiar with. Until someone came up with Oreo, a mix between black and white. My attempts to explain my heritage were lost on them. Finally, someone saw both my mom and my dad together and was kind enough to back up my ‘half Mexican’ explanation.
Motts. My sister still calls me this. It was my nickname during eighth grade when I played on the middle school basketball team and danced on the drill team.
Homeschooled. The year I was supposed to start high school my parents made the monumental decision to keep us all home. I moped, fussed, tried to ‘out stubborn’ my parents to no avail. I was home to stay. I laid around the house for half the school year not doing a thing. Then something happened. I realized I could go through my classes as quickly as I wanted to. I wasn’t going to be held back by anybody. I finished high school in one and half whirlwind years. Which leads to my next label.Youngest Student at Ricks College. I applied and was accepted to both BYU and Ricks (now BYU-Idaho). I was fifteen. I loved it. I didn’t let others know my age. My roommates knew of course. And so did my professors. I thought that would be all until the school newspaper The Scroll printed a facts sheet with the birthdays of the oldest and youngest students, statistics on the number of girls versus boys, which state had the most students attending, etc. I was still safe. No names were attached to the birthdays. But in my Chemistry 105 course a student asked the professor if it was really true that someone just fifteen was at Ricks. Professor Smith replied, “Sure as shooting. She’s sitting right there and beating all but three of you for the top grade in class.” Talk about being embarrassed!
Wife. This is by far one of my favorite labels. I just happened to acquire it earlier than most. You see, my parents decided to ask someone to keep an eye on me while at college. And I guess he took it literally. Mr. Ferrero Rocher and I were married on December 20, 1994 in the Salt Lake Temple, one month after I turned seventeen. After Ricks we moved to the family farm. It was quite a change in lifestyle going from a doctor’s daughter to a farmer’s wife. There was a lot to learn but I wouldn’t change it for the world.Mother. My other favorite label. I never did like to babysit as a teenager. I just couldn’t stand watching kids, changing diapers, wiping snotty noses. And now here I am the mother of seven children. It has brought so much joy. Each child is so unique, brings different talents and varying abilities to contribute to our family and others. I didn’t realize there could be so many variations coming from the same gene pool!Today I’ve gained another label, thirty. Is that old? It sounds better now to be able to answer “I’m in my thirties” when I’m stopped at the store with seven children in tow and a stranger comments, “Are they all yours? You look too young to have seven kids. How old are you?” I usually hem and haw and answer with “Oh, I must have good genes.” How do you explain to someone you were twenty-eight when you had your seventh child?I know other labels will come. I haven’t talked about some I have – seamstress, pianist, amateur photographer, shorty. But they’re there constantly changing, morphing, trying to define who I am.