Mom had a penchant for nicknames

As the year winds down, I’ve been thinking about some things. One of them is my name. I know that sounds crazy but it enters my mind from time to time, especially at this time of the year. You see, my name is James Yates Hartley, not Charlie Hartley. (For those of you who care, Yates is an old family surname.)

Charlie was a nickname given to me when I was a little kid by my mother. Mom had a few problems; but in her heart she was a fun-loving, almost goofy, kind of a woman. I use the term goofy in the most respectful way possible, with all the love a son can muster. It was a warm kind of goofy. The kind that lets you know you’re loved and important.

She had this penchant for nicknaming her kids. Each of us had one; and as I look back on things, I now realize they were really accurate. They captured our personalities perfectly. Mom had a real talent in that regard. I was nicknamed after Charlie Brown, the Peanuts cartoon character.

If you think back, you’ll remember that Charles Schultz drew Charlie Brown with a big head in the Peanuts strips. It doesn’t quite fit his body. I had the same problem as a kid. When I was little my head was bigger than my body. Things were out of proportion. I really did resemble the real Charlie.

More important, though, was my personality. For whatever reason, I always saw the good in everyone. I believed what they told me and never thought that they would do me wrong.

I lived Charlie Brown’s life. It was like when Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie just as he kicks at it and then falls on his back. No matter how many times she does that to him he still believes her when she says she won’t do it the next time. He might be a little suspicious but he can’t help himself. He has to trust her. It’s not what he does. It’s who he is. He can’t change that.

Mom saw some of that in me. It stuck. Nothing much has changed in four decades. I went through school as Charlie and I fish as Charlie. I wouldn’t know what to do if someone at a tournament site called me James or Jim. I’m sure I wouldn’t even look up.

I will confess, however, that the business world has made me more wary of people and their motives, although I still err on the trusting side. Sometimes I pay a price for that. In truth, I’ve paid a heavy price a time or two. But the alternative is to go through life distrusting people and having a negative attitude. That would be worse.

Enough of the reminiscing. Break out your shallow stuff. It’s fall. The big feeding binge is on. Take advantage of it.

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