By Anthony Corona
I remember the first time I realized my surname was kind-of special. I was a small kid in first grade when my teacher made this great game of finding something to say about everyone’s name. She told us that the name Mary was the most common name around the world with variations like Maria. And of course who the first Mary was. I remember there was a kid who’s last name was Shoemacher and that in the dark ages often names were assigned based on what a person did in their villages. Then she got to me, Anthony Corona, and she explained to the class that Corona meant Crown in a few languages, can you imagine? I was ROYAL! I tucked that knowledge away and pulled it out to impress all my adult family members and friends of my parents, and don’t ask the other kids in my class how big of a head I got from that exceptional piece of information.
Fast forward a few grades and maturity levels to middle school. It was summer break and all of my cousins and I spent afternoons around my Nanny and Poppy’s pool. Various uncles and aunts were charged as life-guarding and peace keepers for all of us kids. Usually there was a big cooler with juice boxes and sodas and another cooler with adult beverages. Imagine our surprise one summer day when we showed up for our swim and BBQ to find my grandparents had upgraded the patio decor. Suddenly there was my name, everywhere! On the coolers, on flags strung around the pool area, on a huge blowup raft and little bottle lights strung along the fences and rails. It was a Corona Beer extravaganza! Blue and white backgrounds with palm trees, the proverbial bottles clinking and of course the crown! To top it all off CORONA was prominently embossed across all these awesome products in gold lettering. This was the height of cool and it sparked a lifelong association for me and several of my cousins. When I got back to school that year I was armed with a new moniker to use as laughter invoking fodder.
Picture it, Madame Eicoff’s French class the first day of 7th grade and as she is calling roll she gets to Corona and instead of calling out here I loudly and proudly announced, “Like the BEER!”
Needless to say Madame Eicoff wasn’t pleased with the response but the chuckles and outright laughter of the class immediately boosted me to the un-official position of class clown. This trick is one I have used for years. In high school, college, and in meetings across the country for work, it has been a magically effective ice breaker.
Let me digress for a moment and interject that when my grandparents came here from Italy our name was actually Coronatelli, and the imposing folks on Ellis Island decided they were to become Corona to make it easier for all. Easier for who, I have always wondered but alas Corona we have all been since then. The Coronatelli’s were at one time the ruling family of Naples so that royal feeling I felt all those years ago was actually a instinctual nod to my ancestry.
The pride in my surname only grew and flourished, though in subsequent years I was known to lament; “I wish I was of the Mexican Corona Dynasty.” That of course was another fun thing to say to spark conversation. I am a very Proud 2nd generation Italian American. I have always been proud of being a Corona.
Late 2019 as we all know something natural and rather sinister began to invade the planet. It wasn’t something alien, rather a virus that in different forms and evolutions has probably been here millions of years before Humans came to be. Covid-19 is a virus (and this is where I begin to cringe) from the corona family of virus. That’s right folks, The Corona Virus began to infect its way around the world.
My first reaction was of remembering a college level biology class where one lesson was about virus’s and epidemics. I remember hearing for the first time there was a class of virus called Corona but I quickly relegated that knowledge to a dusty shelf in the back, dark recesses of my mind. However, once the virus was identified and named that shelf imploded and that pesky little piece of knowledge was to become a worldwide cause for what I call “The Cringe”.
As the media is known to do, they created a lexicon of terms about the pandemic and suddenly I was hearing my beloved name hundreds of times a day in negative connotations. Suddenly, I who was so proud to hear my name called became the person who cringed every time I had to tell a new person my name.
It’s not that bad I’m sure many are thinking, it’s just a name. NO! It is no longer just a name, it’s a curse word to many. I am sure some are thinking that people won’t be tactless enough to comment on it. Wrong! Customer service calls, paratransit drivers, and even the office staff and nurses in my doctor’s office comment. Sometimes it’s a sad little: “That’s an unfortunate last name. Sometimes they say: “You’re not infected, right?” Followed by that abrasive chuckle. Great joke, right? That however isn’t the worst. On a social media platform, one special soul messaged me to ask if I could inject them with my coronavirus love. That one made my skin crawl and almost hurl up lunch.
There was a point that I almost felt shame in my last name, almost wished for the chance to make a name change, but no, its my name and no virus is going to steal the pride of name from me. It’s taken loved ones and friends. It has taken more than a year of hugs and handshakes, holiday celebrations and most vital to me it took the ability for me to be physically present when my mother went under the knife for lung cancer surgery. It cannot have my pride in my name!!!
Anthony Corona, like the crown, like the beer, like the royal. I know I am no king but I reclaim the pride in the name. I take back the power of using such a cool name to break the ice and make others laugh. I love my name and no virus is going to change that.
This all may seem silly to some but I am a firm believer in changing the narrative of negative to positive! The virus has stolen people, moments, and time from us all but I implore everyone to remember the things it cannot take from us. As we boldly and hopefully quickly beat this virus back with vaccinations and mitigation protocols, we will emerge changed but it is my soaring hope we will emerge with new love for life and our fellow humans. Declaring my love for the name Corona is one way I choose to light a candle out of this darkness, and it’s also a vow to always choose life and love. Not to mention, Choosing Pride! Corona, a story in name.