Before I started school, my dad taught me how to print my name. He told me that I had a unique name. “You can spell it either J-o-a-n or J-a-o-n, depending on how you feel at the time.” He assured me that it was the only name in existence that had this special property.

I learned the truth on my first day at Notre Dame Grade School. I was crushed. I was only 6, but I dared to protest, saying my father had given me the name and he surely must know. My teacher, a nun whose name I have bleached from my memory, intimated that it looked as though I’d have plenty to say when it came time for my First Confession.

Joan Siegel, Minneapolis