Sometimes, I’ve thought I should’ve been named Norman.
Uncles on both sides of the family were named Norman. So, both of my grandfathers, Pop and Popo, reflexively called me “Norman” from time to time. (I didn’t really mind, because I happened to love both Uncle Normans and thought they were pretty cool.)
In one of my jobs, I indirectly succeeded a guy named Norman, and so colleagues who worked with us sometimes referred to me as “Norman” or even “Norm.”
And every once in awhile, people will call me “Norman” with no conceivable antecedent or other provocation.
So, I’ve often wondered if Marvin and Norman are somehow tightly, linguistically connected in some weird sub-genre of names. Or maybe Norman is my soul’s real name, and when I get to heaven, God will look at me and say, “Well, Norm, … ,” and I’ll be made whole.
Right now, I’m feeling pretty good about the name Norman, because Joanna and I enjoyed a moving experience with one of the great Normans of all time.
We attended a board meeting in Providence, R.I., that ended at noon, and our flight home wasn’t until the next morning. So, I asked my friend Kerry, who used to live up there, what to do with a free afternoon and evening. He didn’t hesitate. “Drive to Stockbridge, Mass., and visit the Norman Rockwell Museum,” he instructed. Terrific advice.
Jo and I drove through the Berkshires on a pristine autumn afternoon, soaking up the crisp air and the luscious fall folliage. Then we paid our fee and stepped back into the best of the 20th century.
If you’re of a certain age, you remember Norman Rockwell from his Saturday Evening Post covers and other magazine illustrations: A summer day in the life of a little girl, a couple applying for their marriage license, gossip snaking its way through a New England village, a grandfather and grandson catching a fish, a brave black girl integrating Birmingham schools. The list seems endless, and in one way or another, Rockwell painted the range of human emotions, not to mention life experiences.
Jo and I spent about two hours studying Rockwell paintings, and they were a couple of the loveliest hours on memory. As we wandered the galleries, I kept wondering what it is about his paintings that moves me—and millions of people—so deeply.
Driving back to Providence, I decided it’s one abiding emotion: Affection. His paintings reflect his affection for people in all stations of life.
Later, I couldn’t help but think that if Christians looked upon people with the affection Rockwell painted them, Christianity would be as winsome as a Rockwell magazine cover.