Nicknames: Rean-Bean? Chick? What Was Yours?

Did you have a childhood nickname? Mine was Buzz, given to me by my dad. I dropped it in college and am sorry I did. I’m working a bit to recreate it, so this post from writer Doreen Frick hit the spot.

Take it away, Doreen!

I never really liked my nickname, but it never occurred to me to ask Mom to call me something different, something more sophisticated, something grown-up. I paid no mind, chalking it up to being part of a family of seven where nicknames were part of the territory.

My name was Doreen which became Reen-Bean, which was part of the fabric of the household just like the familiar clackety-clack of the typewriters in the den and basement, the do-re-mi- notes faithfully practiced and plunked along with that horrible piano teacher (whom we now know wasn’t so horrible– he was just depressed, and Mom thought letting him teach her kids how to play would cheer him up), the garlic and lamb wafting from the kitchen, and the groans from the sister I shared a room with when I turned on the light and woke Sleeping Beauty. Family life begets familiarity. . . and familiarity breeds nicknames.

Sleeping Beauty, aka Twinkle-toes, aka my sister Diane, never minded her nickname. Diane had movie star sunglasses and struck a killer pose for photographs that stuns me even now. She was destined for the camera.

My brother Duane was called Jack Benny (do any of us even know why?), but he probably didn’t mind, or if he did, had no idea who Jack Benny was. Dead-pan humor wasn’t really Duane’s calling, imitating President Nixon later on in life was.

Dennis, my older (and apparently mischievous brother), was Dennis the Menace (minus the suspenders and cowlick), and my sister Dawn, the youngest (and loudest), was “The Screamer.”

Poor Dawn. I guess she did scream a lot when she was upstairs in her crib, but then maybe she hated being up there all by her lonesome. I understand, but back then I wasn’t sympathetic. We older kids were threatened that if we so much as woke that sleeper from her early bedtime slumber, there would be a spanking. Or worse, we’d have to go up and get her to go back to sleep and goodness knows we wouldn’t want to do that. We’d rather be outside playing with the neighbor kids.

Well Dawn, aka the Screamer, eventually outgrew her screaming and then Mom decided to nickname her “Marilyn,” which isn’t really a nickname, it’s Dawn’s middle name. Dawn, the Screamer, was named after Marilyn Monroe. I’m not sure Dawn realized that, but alas, the reasoning behind the choosing of a middle name is not known except that Marilyn was a superstar and still alive and well when Dawn was born, and Mom gave us all middle names with either an “M” or an “S.” Maybe Mom figured Marilyn was a pretty name for a girl born at the crack of dawn during the era of the beauty of the silver screen. It is a pretty name. I’m still not sure Dawn is crazy about it though.

My husband’s name is Charles Wesley, but his dad always called him “Chick,” which I just hated. It was so, I don’t even know what, it was just so not Wes. When you have such a handsome name why would someone butcher it like that? Wes tries to explain that Chick was a common name on his street. There was a “Chicky” Bell, and a Chick somewhere else down the line. Chick was a common nickname for “Charles,” but for me it denotes a fella with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his shirtsleeve, a pair of loafers and a slicked-back greasy head of black hair and droopy eyelids, leaning against a jalopy, killing time. I could almost draw a “Chick” right here:

Or not.

Mom never gave Wes a nickname. She called him “Charles.” Like in the Little House on the Prairie TV show, when Mrs. Ingalls would look at Michael Landon and say, “Oh Charles,” my mom would tease my husband and say, “Oh Chaaaarles.” And it was super cute. She clearly loved Wes, and he her.

But I remained her Reen-Bean until one day many long years later when I tucked her in for the night. Mom couldn’t quite put her finger on my name. She quietly called out as I left the room, “Good night first-born daughter.” And I tell you right then and there I felt my heart break in two. I wanted to whisper, “Reen-Bean.”

Thanks, Doreen.

Now onto our readers! What was your nickname? Do you miss it? Does anyone still use it?

Photos: Doreen and her two sisters do a lot of reminiscing, and once in a while, call one another by the nicknames their folks used. In the middle photo, Dawn is on the ground looking up. Doreen, with darker hair, is the oldest. Diane is next to Dawn. Their creative mom, Mary Kirban, is dressed for church in the photo at the top.

Here’s Doreen now:

She’s all grown up and lives in Nebraska with her husband. Follow these links to read more of her work:


My Suitcase and the Screaming Sixties


A post by writer Doreen Frick:

Cleaning out boxes last month netted me some old memories: stashed away photos from my childhood. Me in short bangs and sun suits. Mom pregnant, again trying to hide the whole thing from the camera with a big birthday cake or baby still in diapers. The stuff of my youth.

But what I was really looking for, the one thing I really miss from back then and don’t know what happened to, was my old luggage. The mod orange and black and green fabric with a wildness that screamed a fun trip was coming. The zipper on the side pocket angled just right for candy, gum, pens, diaries.

And then I remembered my sturdy pink train case with mirror and frilly elastic to hold my special beauty products, (like a brush), a case so perfect that when the push button popped it open, the soft insides smelled like talcum and lady-like things.


Armed with my baseball card and comic book collection, my patent leather Sunday shoes, and my trusty Keds, there was nothing I couldn’t squeeze into those two travel cases. Mom always let me pack myself, God love her. One unforgettable week at camp I left home without any fresh underwear. Never again would I make that mistake! Mom showed up the next afternoon with a week’s supply and a hearty second hug goodbye.

Those were the days of September school bags with straps and buckles. We carried them like a briefcase, hauling home a desk full of books and assignments. They were always brown, like the paper bags we cut and taped and covered our school books in and though we always got new clothes, new ankle socks, and a new pencil case, seems we always carried the same worn-out school bag with no personality. A sorry-looking bag filled with paper-sack covered science and history and math books.


When I was fifteen my dad let my sister and I redecorate our bedroom. I chose the same motif I’d picked for my luggage, my beloved luggage. The headboard of my bed was fit for a queen, contoured in plush deep pink velvet; our walls, Dad papered psychedelic with a new slick vinyl feel to them.


My sister says our windowsills were the only calm thing in the room. Maybe we ran out of colors, because we painted them a powder blue. In one short summer I’d stepped out of my Mary Janes and into moccasins. And love beads. And the Moody Blues.


And when we returned to school, Dad took us to a stationery store where we picked out book covers that were colorful and striped and flower-printed. We were happy, so so happy to be stepping into a new era. Even my mother got into the act and re-did her kitchen, the living room, in fact the whole house grew more colorful.

Gone were the dark depressing brown walls and practical gray carpets. One day we woke to a pink fireplace (yes pink!) and deep purple rugs. The sixties were screaming into our little house in Huntingdon Valley, and I think it all started with my crazy luggage.


Doreen Frick is very happy to re-live her sixties. She loved the peasant blouses and the bell bottoms, and the cars her brother used to drive (GTO’s), and the simple things like everybody enjoying the same television show and watching together after dinner. . .



Letters: Doreen Frick Still Writes Them!


I find myself writing shorter and shorter notes on Christmas cards these days. I type so much that writing longhand feels uncomfortable. It’s like my fingers have lost the art. So in honor of letter writing, I bring you a post from writer Doreen Frick, who has not lost the art at all!

Yesterday my daughter texted this: Mom, how many letters a week do you write?

 I took a quick inventory of letters awaiting stamps (5) and letters I remember sending so far this week, (6) and letters I was thinking of writing tomorrow (2) and gave her a “guesstimate” of 15.

She tread carefully, remembering the four letters she’d received in the last month, (two to her kids), because she asked me if I really thought only fifteen.After all, I have four kids, and eleven grandkiddies, and she knows I don’t email, barely text, and rarely call. I re-evaluated my correspondence (I keep track on a tablet) and decided she was right. It was more like twenty letters a week.

And in that instant, I counted the cost. Twenty letters a week, forty-seven cents each, hmmmm. How much am I spending a month on postage? Envelopes. Cards. Small packages. And in that one moment I made a decision. I will be cutting back next week to one letter. Just one.

Now I’m sure that wasn’t the real reason my daughter texted me. In fact, she likes to get my letters. And so do her kids. She texted because, as she put it,“It just dawned on me that letter writing is your ministry, Mom.”

 Thirty-eight years old, and she’s just now “getting me.”

But the real beauty of all of this is not that one of my kids finally understands me but that all these years I’ve been hoping that my friends and family will see the beauty and love I have for a hand-written letter. And that was one other thing my daughter said,

It’s nice to get a letter when all you ever really seem to get in the mail are bills.

Mission accomplished. I can let that one go now.


Photo Top: This envelope was sent to my great-aunt in 1937. I display the envelope (with the letter tucked inside still) to remember my aunt and days gone by.

Photo Bottom: Doreen is in her mom’s arms. She writes, “My mom Mary was especially good about keeping the entire family far and wide in touch. I think it was one of her many endearing gifts, that word or two that would make someone feel so very thought about and loved and missed. It made you want to write her back.”

About Doreen: Doreen is a writer and loves to tell a story. She’ll wake up with one and go to sleep with another. And she writes at least one letter every day to somebody.

Follow these links to read more of her work:

Marriage: Fighting and Mending after All These Years

Walter and Antonia

A post by writer Doreen Frick

My neighbor, no young man, ran out of his house after his wife. His wife was in their car, backing it out into the road, he chasing after her, crying. I don’t think either of them saw me; they were in their own private drama, and now I’d become part of it. I seriously did not know old people had arguments that led to stuff like this. As she drove off, I watched him trudge back to the house, head down, and heart on his sleeve.

This was none of my business. I only knew these folks because he walked his dog and talked to us when we passed on the sidewalk walking ours, or when we chatted small-talk as the two of them sat on their porch on a summer afternoon. Their age I would guess was late seventies. I never asked what he did for a living. I think they had a son. She wore a lot of makeup and seemed the boss. That was my opinion but judging by the tiff I watched from my driveway, it was pretty obvious she wore the pants. He looked like a broken man and my heart ached for him.

I wasn’t about to go over and see what I could do for the poor guy, and I assume she made her way home and there was hell to pay, but that’s conjecture. Looking back on it these thirty-something years later, maybe she had a legitimate beef and maybe they worked on it, but the way their private matters played out in public has left a searing image in my mind.

Old people fight. Old women drive off in a huff. Old men sometimes run after them in tears. I’d never considered such a thing before.

Thinking back on this couple I seem to remember they had a son, and he died when he was a grown man. I know the old man took a liking to our youngest boy and nicknamed him Jo-Jo. I think he was the only one who called Joey that after age five and by age ten, Joey preferred being called Joe even though his given name was Joel. But whenever our dog-walking neighbor saw Joey and friends outside playing football, his old eyes would light up, and he’d call out a grand hello to his buddy, Jo-Jo.

My son Joe grew up and so did his parents, and eventually we all moved away one by one to college and other adventures on the far corners of the country, leaving our neighbors with the dog and the porch they used to sit on far behind. Joey got married, and so did his sisters and brother. Once in a while we all congregated back in the general vicinity of the old homestead, but it never occurred to any of us, I guess, to ask about the old neighbors we used to see when we played outside or walked our dogs.

I could google them, but they’re long gone I’m sure. I could ask their next-door neighbor what became of them; she kept in contact with the whole Avenue no doubt and could fill me in, but then I’d have to tell her why I’m asking, and in perfect honesty, I’m not sure why I would be.

Maybe I want to know if they were happy. Was old age kind to them? Was that little incident in the driveway an anomaly? Was she given to outbursts? What did he do for a living?

But the questions aren’t as important as the memory they gave me: this picture of older people struggling just like young marrieds do, like a movie in my mind that keeps playing that one scene and then stops there with the sad man walking back to the house and the mad woman racing off to God knows where.

Somewhere in that scene I see myself. And sometimes when emotions get the better of me; it’s not the prettiest of pictures. When the smoke clears and my logic returns, there’s a very real part of me that’s thankful for that scene that played out on my watch one summer afternoon.

I don’t know how their story ended, but perhaps that’s just part of the cycle. We live together, breathe the same air, come to a crossroads, let it out in the open, learn to listen after it’s all been said ten times over, agree to disagree.

And sometimes the beauty of this cycle is the aftermath, the time put in to the marriage weaves its magic like the clicking of Dorothy’s heels in the land of Oz, and we truly believe There’s No Place Like Home (with him).


Mark and Doreen

Photos: Doreen didn’t have a photo of the old couple she watched argue that day, so she sent two lovely family wedding photos. At the top are husband Wes’s grandparents, Walter and Antonia, married in Nebraska in 1916. The photo directly above shows Doreen and Wes on their wedding day in Pennsylvania in 1972.

Doreen Frick is a 61-year-old writer from Philadelphia, who has lived in Washington State, New Mexico, and finally, half-settled in Ord, Nebraska, where her husband’s people homesteaded over one hundred years ago. She first began to write when she journaled in a tablet during her days raising four children, some dairy cows, and a horse, chickens, and the welcome stray cats that found their way to her place.
Doreen Frick

A Long Time Marriage: A Happy Burial of Sorts



A post by writer Doreen Frick: 

Today I took my wedding band and buried it. It was cold and snow showers were threatening, but I wasn’t cold or sad or threatened when I took the ring out of my coat pocket and put it under the soil where my husband’s great-grandparents rest.

Yes, it was symbolic, and yes, the next day I almost went back to the cemetery to retrieve it. Yet a week later, as I write this, the ring remains where I laid it, safe and sound and with the ones I think would understand. I need to let go and move on with my life.

Initially I took the wedding band off in the morning after a night of weeping. In the spirit of hopelessness (if there is such a spirit), I wanted to run away from my problem (and in my sleeplessness I came up with a Plan A, a Plan B and was working on a C when I fell asleep), but when I woke none of my plans seemed to matter. What was important was that I awoke happy. Confident. Whole. My problems had not been solved, nothing had been accomplished, and yet I had a new vision. A trust. Not so much in us, but in me, and in him, and therefore in us.

Still I kept the ring off, and when he noticed, I told him the truth. I want a new ring for a new beginning. Yes, after 43 years, we (and I mean we) need a new start. He never asked where the ring has gone, and I’ll probably never tell him. I applied for a job that day (most of our fight was about money), and then I led a seminar on writing your story to a group of women and young people who’d answered my ad in the newspaper. In preparation for the day out, I cut my own hair, colored and moussed it, and put on foundation and a new outfit. Turns out Mom was right after all. Sometimes when you’re feeling down you need to go shopping.

Spend money when you’re fighting about it. Fix your hair when you feel low about yourself. Reach out to others when you want to pull in and stay in bed. I had no intention of running away after I buried my ring; I was fine with staying put. All notions of solving this with my nighttime planning dissolved.

Having options (no matter how flimsy) helped me come out of my quagmire much more quickly. As crazy as it sounds, it was as if having choices helped me make the more sound one. Stay. Get strong. Eat a good breakfast. Fix your hair. Voice your opinion and wait. Remember Who is watching over you. That night I got a text from my granddaughter in Michigan. I texted back and asked how she was doing. Her reply was pure magic:

“I’m doing good most of the time, but I have my moments.”

Seventeen-year-old honesty, and instantly we bonded. She’s mine, oh yes, she’s mine because I, too, have my moments. But I’m good too.

In the freedom of waiting, I looked back over the past week when the problem surfaced. Of course it’s been below the surface for over twenty years, but that’s my way of dealing with things. Hide. But on this day, while eating lunch in the car, I railed against him, and began the unloading of assault.

In the middle of it, I looked over and saw his hand tremble, and his pulse racing in the vein in his hand. His demeanor belied the worry beneath, and I had a thought that maybe I can back off for now, and revisit this problem later. Of course I picked the middle of the night to let it all out.

Or maybe it picked me, but the real miracle is the thought that maybe he’s wounded too. Maybe the man has to hold it in and figure out how to solve it, but just for him to listen to my pain means he has to be mighty courageous. Nobody can take somebody’s pain away. But they can be brave enough to hear it.

And that’s where we’re at. I bought a cheap $5 ring at the thrift store to hold me over until we can afford the one I want. I put the picture of the gem-encrusted ring front and center in my pen jar to remind me there is nothing but beauty when one looks for it. In the acknowledging we have an unsolvable problem, I was given the confidence that took me out of myself. Tackling the next phase of life, where things do not revolve around how I feel, but who I am. A beloved child. A strong woman. A listener. A healer. Wounded, but for a purpose. I can’t ask for anything more than to have purpose. For me, everything has to have a purpose.

The snow skiffed by and the temperature dropped, but the sun came out again and when the night fell I slept like a brick. Did I get the job? I don’t know yet.

Will I ever fight with him about money again? I can’t promise.

Am I glad I didn’t buy a plane ticket to Florida? Yes.

Have I ruled out the little house next door to my daughter? Not yet. I’m half-plugging for that in our future.

In one of the many meltdowns, I mentioned if I should ever lose my memory and forget him, I will never lose the memory of the cologne he used to wear when we were dating.

That afternoon while I was out burying a ring, he came home with Brut in his shopping bag.


About the Ring: This is Doreen’s dream ring, which she spotted in a cowboy magazine. It’s sold in a shop in Santa Fe, and the middle diamond is, in her words, “massive!”

Doreen Frick is a 61-year-old writer from Philadelphia who has lived in Washington State, New Mexico, and finally she’s half-settled in Ord, Nebraska where her husband’s people homesteaded over one hundred years ago. She first began to write when she journaled in a tablet her days raising four children, some dairy cows, and a horse, chickens and the welcome stray cats that found their way to her place.Capture