Choosing a name for your characters isn’t always as easy, especially if you have a lot of names to come up with or one of the characters is from a specific place, like Iceland, for instance. At these times you have to dig down a little deeper into the well of creativity to come up with a name that works. In the past I’ve consulted old school directories, combed through my personal memory archives for people I’ve met in the past or (when I needed a Brazilian boy’s name) researched names online.
So where did the name Indigo come from, you’re wondering. (Or maybe you aren’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway). It’s an unusual name, I’ll admit, and there’s a story behind it. Before I tell the story, humor me and guess which of the following is true:
a. Indigo’s mom is an interior designer who named her daughter after her favorite wall accent color.
b. The name is a secret identity.
c. It’s a family name.
If you guessed a or c then you failed this pop quiz (kidding). The real answer is b, the name Indigo is a secret identity. Specifically, it is my secret identity, but only for a few weeks each year when I am a summer camp counselor. Don’t ask me why the counselors all have alter egos – this mysterious practice has never been fully explained to me, even though I’ve been working at this camp for five years now. All I know is the first day I showed up for training I was told to pick a name – although there were certain rules: I couldn’t pick a name that was already being used by another counselor and the name had to fit on the special counselor name tag. These counselor name tags were standard-issue (to counselors and counselors only) yet highly coveted because they are leather. (The campers all dream of the day they will have their own fancy leather name tags; my daughter is already thinking she’ll either be “snowflake” or “pegasus”). Once I had chosen a name and been handed a name tag, I was hustled down to the leather craft table, the area of camp that is treated with the utmost reverence because of the extensive array of hand-tooling equipment (not to mention the cost and the coolness factor). Several tables are covered with row upon row of shiny metal embossing tools. I dampened my leather tag with a sponge, grabbed a rubber mallet and pounded each letter I-N-D-I-G-O in the fanciest lettering I could find, then pounded in a few decorative elements and butterflies for good measure.
The tag turned out pretty well; it’s legible, although the last few letters are a little cramped. It’s gotten more decorative (and heavier!) from the trinkets I’ve collected from campers over the years. I wear it every time I’m at camp and when I’m not at camp it swings from my rearview mirror. I guess you could say the name is very much a part of me even though it’s not my real name.
Mostly this secret identity thing works really well, except for a few random encounters with other counselors outside of camp. At that point I always feel a little awkward because I’ve worked elbow to elbow with these people and I still don’t know their names. It feels a little funny to say, “Hey, Bluebird, how’s it going?” anywhere outside of camp.
But then again, they’re stuck in the same awkward name conundrum that I am, and when they say, “Hey, Indigo, how are you?” I just smile.