Staying Top of Mind
Madison Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Wrigley Field — all good examples of streets and places named after people, which have become well known and immortalized over the years. Leaving a legacy on a place or street might seem like the ultimate mark on society you were hoping to make before you die. That is, unless you are not in any way famous and you’re from a small town in south Louisiana and your dad named that street after you when you were a kid. In that case, it can get weird.
Let me explain. When I was about eight years of age, my father was involved in a real estate development project in my hometown of Opelousas, Louisiana. He was one of the partners in the subdivision and had naming rights to one of the streets. In my 8-year-old state of maturity, I told him that I wanted that street named after me. My brother had a street in his name (mind you that it was and still is a gravel road, which was actually named after my grandfather) and I wanted one, too! Well, low and behold, he named the main street in the development “Suzanne DeJean Drive.”
Note that he didn’t go the conservative route his business partner did, who named his street Christie Lea Drive using his daughter’s more anonymous first and middle name. He went for the full name, which, if you haven’t noticed, is not very common. There’s no mistaking which Suzanne DeJean that street is named for. There was only one in Opelousas, and one in the entire country.
The development was a success and became a destination for young families, and I must say, there were some perks that went along with having a street named after you. The kids in town thought we must’ve been rich (LOL). My high school boyfriends would steal the street sign and bring it to my house as a profession of their love (which later got me grounded and banned from having contact with any of “dem thieving vandals,” as my dad called them). A kid once asked me for my autograph (BLUSH!!!).
But as the years went on, things started to change. I moved away from Opelousas for college and have since left the state of Louisiana for Chicago. At the same time, my high school friends reached child-bearing age. They started having children and families and then they moved to MY STREET. Holy balls. My friends are writing my name out on a daily basis. They’re having to spell it out over the phone, which from my experience is not a simple task.
Not only do they have to deal with this, but their poor children do, too. These kids have already fallen victim to impossible Cajun surnames like Thibodeaux and Godeaux. In addition, they get to learn and spell out my name over the phone. Mais la!*
Aside from that and back to the part about how this affects me as a person — it’s weird! It’s so weird to think that there are people who see my name every single day. It’s the first home address most of their kids will memorize. Do they think about me often? Does my face pop into their head when they write their address? Do they wish they lived on a street named after a non-French descendant, something like Susan Degan Drive? What if they always hated me growing up and now they are stuck seeing my name every day? What if I get involved with some sort of weird scandalous court case that becomes national news? Then they’ll have to live on a street synonymous with whatever scandal I was involved with.
So next time you’re thinking about putting your personal, or brand, name on something permanent, remember that while you may not have to live with it, someone else will. And if you’re leaving that permanent mark, at least have the legacy to back it up. And remember that if people have to write and/or spell your name over the phone in matters of importance, for goodness sakes let it not be in French.
*Mais la = the Cajun version of “Oy Vey!”