Toni Cade Bambara names her characters with intention, and the character Hazel is named to highlight the idea of one's true identity.
Hazel transforms from a spirited child with various playful nicknames—such as Scout, Badbird, and Peaches—to a dispirited and lost adolescent still unprepared but thrust into the adult world.
Throughout the telling of the story (remember the narration is after the events in the story have taken place), Hazel affixes each nickname to its source and clarifies its context. Her opening reflection in the story's exposition states the knowledge she has discovered about names:
That was the year Hunca Bubba changed his name. Not a change up, but a change back, since Jefferson Winston Vale was the name in the first place. Which was news to me cause he'd been my Hunca Bubba my whole lifetime, since I couldn't manage Uncle to save my life.
By the story's resolution, "Hunca Bubba" no longer exists, as Hazel finally manages to articulate his true identity as her uncle.
Initiation implies a rite of passage; in Hazel's case, she transforms at the story's resolution when she invokes—to her "dear Uncle Jefferson"—her real name as a person worthy of an adult's respect and emotional consideration. She rejects Uncle Jefferson's use of the moniker "Peaches" and asserts her true self: a young woman whose childhood crush confused her heart. She recognizes the transformation when she recalls Uncle Jefferson's reaction to her self-assertion and pain:
And he don't say nuthin. Just look at me real strange like he never saw me before in his life. Like he lost in some weird part of town in the middle of the night and lookin for directions and there's no one to ask. Like it was me that messed up the maps and turned the road posts round ... "And I was just teasin'," I say back just how he said it so he can hear what a terrible thing it is. Then I don't say nuthin. And he don't say nothin.
Uncle Jefferson sees Hazel for the first time as he recognizes that the young girl he teased is becoming a young woman trying to navigate her first heartbreak. Grandaddy Vale then acknowledges Hunca Bubba's initiation:
"Look hear Precious, it was Hunca Bubba that told you them things. This here Jefferson Winston Vale." And Hunca Bubba say, "That's right. That was somebody else. I'm a new somebody."
In Grandaddy Vale's eyes, Hazel is still a child labeled with endearing nicknames, but Grandaddy Vale initiates Hunca Bubba into the adult world. By asserting his name, Hunca Bubba transforms into a new somebody—a man.
The closing paragraph depicts the new road Hazel must navigate; she clings to Baby Jason, her innocent past, "Cause he is my blood brother and understands that we must stick together or be forever lost, what with grown-ups playin change-up and turnin you round every which way so bad. And don't even say they sorry." Hazel's coming-of-age begins as she crosses over to adolescence; she wants to be Hazel, but she, too, will someday be a new somebody.