Story Time: Why I’m Called Peter, Not Pete

This is adapted from a longer First Draft post about immigration policy, Pulling Up The Drawbridge.

At the beginning of that piece I discussed one of my favorite relatives. We shared a first name but not a nickname.

Let’s set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 2014:

As a second generation American, family and immigration are inextricably linked in my mind. I’ve had family on my mind this week as my much-loved Uncle Pete died at the age of 94. He was technically an in-law because he was married to my father’s sister Mary for some 69 years. 69 years, imagine that.

The reason I’ve always gone by Peter was because of my Uncle: he was Pete, I was Peter. Case closed.

Like my father, Uncle Pete was the son of immigrants and was proud of his Hellenic heritage. The Greek side of my family instilled in me a love of my roots and a profound sense of empathy for immigrants from all walks of life.

A few notes about my Uncle. He was a World War II vet who had a lot of stories to tell about his experiences. I think most of them were true, but he was a car dealer so you never know.

I remember him at large family parties, weddings, and whatnot as the relative who loved Greek dancing. It’s the sort of dancing where everyone joins hands and follows a leader of sorts. Uncle Pete was usually the guy up front leaping about and stealing the show.

I remember a time when my Aunt and Uncle were visiting my family in California. I was off to another Grateful Dead show and Uncle Pete pulled me aside and asked, “Do they dance at these things?’

I told him that they did, he smiled and said: “I hope you learned a few moves from me.”

Then he slipped me a twenty-dollar bill and kissed me on the forehead.

That was my Uncle Pete. He was one of a kind for Pete’s sake.

And that’s why I’m called Peter, not Pete.

The 2022 last word goes to The Monkees:

 

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