Title this.

Lately, Johnny only wants to wear super hero shirts. He would wear them in the tub if I let him.

When I put him in time out, he says, “You can’t put me in time out–I’m Superman!”

He walks up to me while I’m making breakfast and says, “Mom, call me Spiderman.”

After calling him Spiderman for a few days, I said, “John, you are not Spiderman. You are my son. We named you John.”

“So you can be Spiderman’s mom,” he said.

He gets that he needs a total transformation. To him, it is not enough to simply be called Spiderman.

It’s just a title. But how important are titles? I can’t help but wonder. The first piece I had published, “Spent,” was titled something else, and the editors didn’t like it. A poem I worked on for a friend’s anthology needed a new title, and though it won’t be in print for a few months, I still don’t know if he kept the original title or not. Does the title transform what it is?

In workshop, I say, “Yes.” Yet for me, it is hard to label anything. Perhaps I can’t blame my students when I write title? at the top of their papers where the blank space is.

I had no problem naming my sons, who were so abstract at the time, and yet now are creatures on their own. Neither could have any other name.

My sons’ names: John Alexander Cedeno. John, after my father. Alexander, after my husband and his father’s middle name, and obviously, our family surname. Samuel Joseph Cedeno. Samuel, after many hours searching the baby name book. Joseph, after my father’s middle name, and again, our family surname. I am too stubbornly raised in tradition to keep my maiden name, Lotze, though I feel a quiet sigh in me every time I see my old name somewhere.

On Ancestry.com, I type in ancestor’s names, and the slight misspelling or mispronunciation during a census can cause me hours more research. Also, the difference between a maiden name and a married name creates a ditch in my path. I notice a wealth of Jr’s and Sr’s, and growl that it makes research confusing, but I have neglected creativity in the naming of my sons. Though, I’ll argue it’s for tradition.

I don’t ever recall referring to my mother as, “mommy,” or my father as, “daddy.” I was way too sophisticated (I thought), mature (I thought), independent (I thought), to use those cute names. It’s Mom and Dad. Perhaps it’s my parents’ influence. They only ever refer to each other as “your mother” or “your father.”

To Johnny, I am no longer “mommy.”

“Mom,” he says in confidence. Sometimes he places “mom” like bookends or parenthesis around his sentences.

“Mom, I want some cheese, Mom,” he says while opening the refrigerator door.

Sometimes he’ll draw out ‘O’, trying to figure out how to be, how to get his own snacks and not hurt my feelings. How to put on his shoes, how to ask me anything, how to be two-going-on-three. “Mom,” he says, and looks at me. And then, nothing.
(P.S. Even now, as I’m about to submit this post, the blog is telling me: “Enter title here.”)

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About Sarah Cedeño

Sarah Cedeño received her BA and MA in Creative Writing from SUNY-Brockport, and her MFA in fiction from Goddard College. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, The Bellevue Literary Review, Literary Mama, and Redactions. She lives in Brockport with her husband and two sons and teaches writing at SUNY-Brockport. View all posts by Sarah Cedeño

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