Posted by: Maryann McCullough | April 1, 2014

Story for April, 2014


I began my life as a poem, albeit a short one. I was Maryann Shanahan.

I had been named for our Blessed Mother, as was nearly half the Catholic female population born in 1942. It was a good name. It was not loaded with expectations, like Tiffany or Willow.

During fourth grade, due to the frequency of “Maryann” being heard of the playground at Saint Luke’s School, , I acquired my first real nickname. I was Shanie. When classmate Walter Morrissey heard my new name, he said “That’s not a name. That’s a car rag.” But the name stuck through near sixty years. Since it was my name through those fun years of high school, it has a happy ring to it. Several friends from my youth have made it to Phoenix this winter to escape Chicago, so I have heard it a lot as we reminisce. I find myself longing for a cherry coke and fries.

My next name was given me by Mother Benedicta, O.P. It was her privilege as Mother General of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, to, like Adam in the garden, select a name for each of us as we made the transition from postulant to novice. I had asked for that name (Sister Deidre) after my sister Deidre whom I loved. Also, Dee had named her new puppy after me when I had left home to join the Dominicans so it was appropriate in a turn-about sort of way.

I liked being that person but realized it would not be my forever life or forever name. It was 1967. I slipped out of the habit I had worn for six years and slipped back into once again being Maryann Shanahan.

But not for long.

In 1968, after moving to San Diego, I met a man whose character and face and name I liked. So I chose to make the package my own. On February 14, 1969, I became Maryann McCullough. Good man, as well as nice alliteration and decent assonance, came with that transition

I am still proudly sporting that name but it led to a few more as well. We had sons, three of them and I got to be “Mom.” It’s difficult to top that moniker, especially when those sons turned out so well.

And of course, in a different part – the teacher part – of my life, I was Mrs. McCullough That was another name (and profession) I wore with pride.

Though that formal name originally came with choosing a husband. I really don’t associate that name with Bill. His name for me these past decades has been “Beauty” – a choice that says much more about him that it does about my physical appearance. He is the most loving of men.

There is another newer name in process, due to Kaden Murphy McCullough, born July 14, 2012. His birth allowed me to lay claim to the title of “grandmother.” I chose “Gammy” to be my new name. It has been used by his parents, Casey and Megan, ever since.

But, there was one problem.

Kaden didn’t choose “Gammy.” Despite everybody’s best effort and, while Kaden was able to name just about every animal that exists in the air, on land or in the sea, Gammy didn’t happen. He would excitedly call out “Boppa” when Bill appeared on the Skype screen, but I was the nameless grandmother.

Then, just days ago, when Kaden and I sat eyeball to eyeball in front of our computer screens, he waved, smiled, pointed and said “Gaga.” So, just like Adam in the garden or Mother Benedicta at the Mound, Kaden got to be the decider. This is my newest and most special name.

The history of our names is really a Cliff Notes history of our lives. Kaden’s AHA moment was the impetus for this essay. The process, though, like looking at a scrapbook, has been filled with happy memories. Pretty sure that means I’ve had a happy life.



  1. Shanie this is great. I am both Grammy to my granddaughter and Bop to my grandson who didn’t quite get it right when he heard his dad call me Barb/

  2. I loved this Maryann, it is a lovely way to look at your history. I have considered Shanahan Murphy McCullough as a baby girl’s name but it seems a mouthful. I love the nickname Shanie though!

  3. What a great story; I’ve always been, just plain ole Rita. Of course, Gramma, which is the Best name EVER! If you’re jonesing for a cherry coke & fries, let’s go to Portillo’s next time I’m in. We can even throw in a CHITown hot dog, not very healty but we’re old & can do what we want. As usual, enjoying your blogs; they’re alway very thought provoking. Looking forward to your next one.

  4. Who would have guessed, “Boppa” and “Gaga”? “Gammy” might have to wait . . . Nice essay Mom!

  5. just simply delightful…a sweet way to start my day, Shannie! xo Kitti

  6. As always, thoughtful, entertaining and looking forward to your next post. Thanks!

  7. This is my new favorite, Gaga,!

    Sent from my iPad


  8. lady Gaga II

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