How Do You Pronounce My Name?


[A recollection, not to be quoted as gospel, but savored in color and humor.]
In Ms. Brewster’s 7th grade homeroom, I was early on the roll book. At 4’10” and walking with the aid of forearm crutches, you’d never guess how much fear this teacher could strike with a single look. Ms. Brewster was a stickler for knowing exactly how things should be, and as she made her way around the classroom taking attendance that first day, she thwacked her left crutch in the middle of my desk and said:


“Now, just exactly how is it that I’m supposed to say your name?”

Stunned, I stammered, “Uh, just call me Demi.”

“What’s that?” she said.

“DEE-mee. Like D, not C. ME, not you. DEE-mee.” Most of my teachers were relieved to have a shorter nickname for me, and I expected that would be the case here, too.

The boy sitting next to me coughed roughly, and said something under his breath to a friend behind him, who nearly choked on his chewing gum to keep from laughing.

The left crutch arced from my desk to his and hit with an even louder thwack. “Mind telling the class what’s so funny you couldn’t wait to share it?” Ms. Brewster was definitely the alpha male in the room.

“Uhh… no. I mean, uh… nothing, ma’am,” he backpedaled.

“Sure, you’d love to share. Otherwise you and me gonna be spending some time getting to know each other … during lunch detention this week.” She shifted her weight and raised the crutch to lightly touch his shoulder.

“Um… uh… her name’s DEE-mee,” he stammered.

Ms. Brewster’s eyebrows knitted. She looked toward the friend who’d laughed. “Enlighten us as to exactly what was so funny about this comment that you choked on your Chiclets?”

“He said ‘DEE-mee, like dreamy’,” and let out an uncontrollable snort.

“Mother of God,” Ms. Brewster breathed, turning back to me.


“‘Dreamy,’ huh? Well, I’m gonna call you ‘Nightmare’.”
For nine months. One hundred seventy-nine excruciating weekdays of seventh grade. I’d know, because I had perfect attendance.
Demi, like Dreamy

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