Driving through the town where I have lived for almost 40 years last week, I took a short cut through a new neighbor and there it was–a street named Haymaker Lane. Of course I had to jump out of my car and take a picture.
Growing up I didn’t like my name Jill Haymaker much. Jill wouldn’t have been a bad name, but the reason I got the name was that my dad’s name was Jack. I spent the early years of my childhood hearing over and over “Oh Jack and Jill that’s so cute!” To me it was just annoying. Then there was my last name. Do you have any idea how many jokes can be made about Haymaker. I got jokes about being a farmer (not that there is anything wrong with being a farmer, I just wasn’t one). Also there were the jokes about the knockout punch known as a Haymaker. I had one teacher in seventh grade who insisted on calling me Muhammed Ali the entire year. It was embarrassing. When I got to college and joined the Greek community, a bunch of clever frat boys changed it to Haybaler, which was then shortened to Baler and by my junior year everyone referred to me as “the baler.” Needless to say, I longed for a nice normal name like Smith or Jones. My dad on the other hand loved the uniqueness of our name. Every vacation we ever took, the first thing he would have my brother and myself do when we got to a motel was to pull out the phone book and look for Haymakers. He would delight every time there were none, which was the majority of the time.
So it will not surprise you that when I married someone with a much more common name, no tears were shed as I gave up Haymaker. I didn’t look back and quickly identified with my new last name. Even when I was divorced, I chose to keep my married name. Fast forward until two years ago when I began writing. Having a full time professional career, I immediately decided I needed a pen name. I was not sure that I wanted any professional clients connecting me to any steamy romances I might create. So at this point, had I been more creative, I probably would have made up a sexy. romantic sounding name, but since that was not the case, I decided to revert to my maiden name. It was easy–I wouldn’t forget it. I didn’t know if it was a good fit for a pen name, but then a wonderful writer friend of mine (thanks Pamela!) Came up with the following tag line “Haymaker to the heart-romance that knocks you off your feet.” I loved it! And I began to like my name.
What surprised me most was shortly before my first book signing, I realized maybe I should decide how I was going to sign my name that I hadn’t used in over thirty years. I sat down and without thinking wrote it out. Wow, I wrote it exactly like I had in high school all those years ago! It was spooky! Even though over the years, the way I wrote “Jill” had drastically changed as had many of the letters in “Haymaker”, when I signed it, I reverted back to my high school style. It brought back many happy memories. My dad had passed away at a young age many years ago and my brother, the sole remaining Haymaker in our line of the family, had no children so the name would die with him. Maybe this was a way to carry on the family name and honor the father I adored through my writing. For the first time in my life, I loved the name I was born with!