Slice of Life Challenge – March 11 – What’s in a Name?

I was shopping in Senoia, Georgia (home of The Walking Dead) when I noticed all of the plants in one of the stores had names. I took photographs of the name tags and noticed a pattern – – they were all named for famous black women. I struck up a conversation with the owner behind the counter and learned that this shop was a local black-owned business. I enjoyed an added dimension of discovery as I thought of all the women who were being celebrated. It’s reassuring to see how far we have come as women over the past century, and I cheer minority women who have overcome obstacles and stayed the course all the way to success and smiles behind the counters of the businesses that they own today.

I’m taking this innovative idea of naming my fairy garden succulents, which will be the last picture in the lineup – with a fascinating history of the names that were selected for these tiny front porch gardens. First, here are 6 of the 17 pictures I took in the Greenhouse Mercantile, with links underneath to the women for whom each plant is named:

Harriet Tubman

Oprah Winfrey

Madam C.J. Walker

Condoleezza Rice

Coretta Scott King

Cicely Tyson

Earlier in the week, I shared my succulent garden and asked for help naming my new fairy gardens. Fellow blogger Fran Haley responded:

I would give one of these fairies a name from a baby’s gravestone I first saw when I was a child visiting my grandmother deep in the country (along the old dirt road, you know-). The name: Leafy Jean. I might name the other fairy Lacey Jane. 

I loved the unique sounds of these sweet names with matching long vowels. I named the fairies Leafy Jean and Lacey Jane.

I wondered if I could find out a little bit of information about Leafy Jean, and so I looked on the Findagrave website and found the photo of this headstone for this baby girl “Gone Home”:

I’m betting this is the grave that Fran saw when she was with her grandmother. It’s located in Beaufort County, North Carolina in the Mixon Cemetery. Leafy Jean Wilson was born on a Sunday – Christmas Eve in 1916, two years after the Christmas Truce called between German and British Soldiers during World War II, when they set aside their differences and came together to play a game of soccer, wish each other Merry Christmas in their native tongues, and sing Christmas carols. The Christmas Truce came five months after the war began……and little Leafy Jean was five months old when she died on a Friday – June 22. I wondered at first if Leafy referenced an olive branch, a symbol of peace and goodwill, but looked it up and found that Leafy means “Relief.” In Hebrew baby names, the meaning of Jean is “Gift from God.” It’s a name of French origin, meaning “God is Gracious.” Leafy Jean had a brother named Leon Russell Wilson, who died when he was 1, one day shy of a full month after his sister, and less than a year prior to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu that started in February 1918.

My heart ached for these parents and these precious children.

I knew what I had to do.

I ran upstairs to the toy chest and fished out a few miniature figures. I explained to Lacey Jane that she would be moving to a different container, so we packed her fairy wands, her wishing well, and her other belongings for a journey to a new magical land.

We had to make room for Leon Russell to remain near Leafy Jean.

Thank you, Fran, for the creative names for these gardens. I will think of you as I water them and care for them! I’ll give an update on how they’re thriving on a Slice of Life Tuesday sometime this summer! Perhaps by then I will learn more history about these babies who now have a special place in my heart – and on my porch.

Special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for giving writers voice and space

19 Replies to “Slice of Life Challenge – March 11 – What’s in a Name?”

  1. Oh, I’m crying. Now Leafy and Leon are together in their own little garden. Precious names and precious thoughts going into your fairy gardens, Kim.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kim, the fairy gardens are lovely, and I’m glad you explained Lacey Jane’s transfer to her. Plants need to know. I’m fascinated by the names Leafy and Lacey and remember studying onomastics in a grad course years ago in which I learned Oklahoma has the most unusual names. I wish I knew whst happened to all my research because I’d like to revisit it. Do take care of the succulents. It would be a shame for Leafy Janevto die young twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glenda, I was surprised to find that Leafy was actually a pretty common name, at least back in the early 1900s. An obituary search turned up several people named Leafy. When I first heard it, I thought, “Whaaaaaaat?” But now, the name has grown on me (no pun intended) and I like it a lot. We have a lot of Bubbas here in Georgia. I had a cousin named Bubba, and I also have a cousin named Lucy who is a belly dancer. There are days I would seriously love to have the gift of art to draw out my very unique family tree. Very. Unique. Family. Tree.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was an unexpected post. I was fascinated. I know that different types of roses and tulips have names but I have never heard people naming their home plants. And your story of how you chose the names for your plants was super interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terje. I had no idea the post would take the turns it did. I guess that’s what they mean when they say “let the pen lead you, and just follow.” I did. I started in Senoia, Georgia, in the land of The Walking Dead and ended up in a cemetery in North Carolina in a place with the peaceful dead. It was an unplanned journey, just as unexpected for me too. Thanks so much for reading and commenting today.


  4. My dear Kim… once again you illustrate the power of stories and how they knit our hearts together. My heart is full this morning, seeing how Leafy Jean led you to my favorite place on this Earth. The little Mixon cemetery lies way down east in a clearing of woods diagonal to the house where my grandparents lived, where my father grew up, where I spent idyllic summers (except for the heat and mosquitoes). From about the age of six onward, I walked this burying-ground with my grandmother, listening to her stories of the old days. The babies always captivated me…Leafy Jean’s name always stuck with me. Now she’s led you to her big brother. There are also twins buried here: Audrie Hope and Aubrie Wilson Mixon, born in February 1917 and dying at age four and five months, respectively. I suspect they’re related to Leafy Jean and Leon Russell with that telltale Wilson connection – likely cousins. As a child in the 1970s I’d stand looking at Audrie and Aubrie’s identical little headstones adorned with lambs, wondering how families carried after such losses. Grandma said babies would get sick and no one knew what to do for them, back then. Her own father’s first wife and baby died in childbirth. My ancestors are buried just around the bend from Leafy Jean and Leon Russell…it all remains an enchanted place for me, and it is so fitting, so marvelous, that these babies are memorialized in a fairy garden where green things will live and thrive under loving care. I’ll be looking for more of their unfolding story! Thank YOU, dear friend, for this deeply meaningful tribute. One of these days we’re likely to learn we have a relative in common. Maybe there’s even a bloodline, one tiny vein, from long, long ago, that somehow connects you and me to Leafy Jean and Leon on a big family tree. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fran, thank you for suggesting the names! I love all the places that one idea took me. The mother’s name was Susie Jones Wilson, and my maternal grandparents were Jones – of course, the most common name in all of everywhere, but perhaps you are right. Maybe there is a common root somewhere on our trees. I watch my 23 and Me tree for distant relatives all the time, and it won’t surprise me if sometime we make a discovery that we are long lost cousins now found.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is incredible. Your discovery of naming plants and taking it to another level of celebrating others from years ago makes this a fascinating read. I love how Fran’s comment enriched your plant naming mission. The stories you can tell about Leafy Jane, Leon Russell, and Lacey Jane!

    I appreciate your links to each plant at the beginning of you post, what a clever way to allow the reader to look at the plant, read about her namesake, and compare the plant’s characteristics to each woman.

    I had no idea there was a website for finding graves. I will be poking around on that one. You brought to life Leafy Jane’s short story, along with Leon Russell’s. I’m wondering what they would be up to right now-and the trinkets you added to their gardens gives a hint. What would they say when they come out to play?

    This is one of my favorite slices so far. Collaborative creativity at its finest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Alice! I appreciate your kind words and encouragement more than you know. This was a fun slice to write. I had no idea where it was taking me – – I just followed along after Fran’s lead and enjoyed the journey of discovery. That’s one of the things I love most about writing – – you never know where you’re going to end up, and truly the destination takes a backseat to the meandering.


  6. Kim, I don’t know which I enjoyed more? Both your writing and backstory moved me. I love that these chidren’s memories live on in your garden. Someone posted that infant deaths and illnesses were overwhelming then and I concur. My grandfather (a new doctor from Univ of Penn) rushed on the train with his sister ( who had scarlet fever) yet he wrote to his mother he could not save her. Those times are heartbreaking to learn about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry about your grandfather’s sister – that must have been such a helpless feeling, despite the best medicine and expertise available right at his fingertips. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment today! I appreciate your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank-you Kim. There is just something really sad about it. You can almost see, or feel the pain.


  7. Kim, what a wonderful tribute to these babies. I love how you changed the planter so Leon Russell could be beside Leafy Jean. I’m curious about how you were able to capture the gravesite photo. I look forward to reading more about your extra-special succulents.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow. This is such a different kind of slice, and the connections are incredible, that you heard the name, found the actual gravestone that Fran used to see 50 years ago. I think it’s so great that the plants are taking on the names of the children who died too young. For me, having lost a child, this is a hopeful (and serendipitous) post, in that Leafy Jean and Lacey Jane have echoes of my own daughter. For one, Leafy Jean, died on June 22, which was my daughter’s birthday, and for the other, Lacey Jane shares the middle name of my daughter, Emma Jane. My wife gave me a heart-shaped succulent for Valentine’s day this year. Perhaps the residents need names! Thank you so much for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting today. This was an interesting slice to write because I wasn’t sure which direction it was taking; I just followed the lead of the pen. I’m so sorry about the loss of your daughter. These similarities with dates and names give a meaningful connection to the gardens. That heart shaped succulent gift from your wife is so thoughtful and caring, and I agree – – perhaps the residents need names. Thank you so much for taking the time to share a bit more of yourself today.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maureen! I’m looking forward to watching them grow. Now that there is a greater connection with these plants, I feel enthusiastic about their care. Thanks for reading and commenting today!


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