Another (short) post in the series about the power of names…
I find out after everyone else. Apparently my boyfriend has been spreading rumors that we are doing it, and not only doing it, but while I am having my period. What provokes him to do this, I’ll never know.
“Hey, Red-Winger,” his friend shouts the name down the full table at lunch, and I blush, knowing it can’t be good, before I look at my boyfriend. He tries to wear a face of innocence, but I know he is guilty.
A friend takes pity on me, later, and shares the rumor with me. By now, everyone who wants to believe it is true, does. Including, of course, my two former best-friends. I can see their gloating smiles. They don’t know the truth, and they don’t want to believe it. Instead, it seems, everyone wants to believe the good-girl really has gone bad.
Alethea, Greek for truth. When I was a child I imagined I was Aphrodite when I wanted to be beautiful. Athena when I wanted to be strong. Once, my friend told me I looked like a Greek goddess in profile and I’ll never forget that. Lethe is a river where one goes to forget. I tried to dip my thoughts in its current to wash them clear of the pain. Too many memories fog my brain, most of them not mine. Grammy called me Leethie, which is only one e away from the river of forgetting, reminding me how we tried our best to forget each other, but she is still with me know. When I smell roses in winter, I know she is beside me. She whispers I love you into the cells of my heart, filling it with the grace of forgiveness. I have been called a lot of names and my life is not over yet. Alethea is not really Alethea, but Aletha according to my family, but not according to one of my best friends who refuses to drop the e that is there. I have no preference for either name, it’s the others I won’t own. Althea sounds like sandpaper. Ah-leth-ia, like a lisp. Then there are the others that are so far off I have to laugh. I’ve been called Bitch, Moody and Too Sensitive. I’ve been called Fish because my last name was Fischer, but I used to wonder if I also smelled like fish, which I might have once a month when I was too afraid to go to the bathroom. There were also the nice nicknames. Eeesh from my family when I was young, and then not so young, spelt Ish by my stepfather who sang me the song about sunshine when he was happy with me. When I smiled everything was okay. Now, my daughter calls me the master healer to tease me, and lots of other whoowhoo names that make me laugh because I know she loves me and in her 12-year-old way, she is proud of her mother. My husband calls me the Love of My Life, and sometimes that sounds too big. I am now Honey by my birthfather when he hangs up the phone and inside the warmth of the word I feel Love.
Second in the series about the power of names and what we can learn from them.
On August 30, 1973 a child was born inside the bedroom of a tiny house that looks like a milk carton. She was supposed to be a boy.
“Dave [my father] always wanted you to be a boy,” my mother often told me.
“I thought you were going to be a boy,” my father tells me now.
She was given the name Alethea Eamon Fischer. Alethea for the truth that cannot be agreed upon.
My mother tells me she found the name in a book. My father, that it was from the 1973 episode of Kung Fu with Jodi Foster called “Alethea,” which aired months before my birth.
My mother tells me it was a typical rainy day in Portland on the afternoon of my birth, my father remembers sun. He’s the one who gave me my middle name. Eamon became my demon. As I grew this name fueled the fire in my belly and the hatred I tried to harbor against my father.
“He never really cared about you girls,” my mother would tell us. How could he, I would think, if he gave me this name?
When I was a child I longed for an ordinary middle name, like Ann or Marie. Like the middle names my friends had. When they would ask me what my middle name was, I would refuse to tell them.
I tried to hide my middle name until it was shared without my permission, on the graduation program at the end of the 6th grade. There it was for everyone to see, beside my misspelt first name. “Eamon.”
No one said anything until the 8th grade, when I heard it sung down the hallways from the voices of boys becoming men. Each splintered note stabbed my heart and flared the fire in my cheeks.
It was a tool of hatred, of shame, of regret. My father’s gift to remind me I was the boy he didn’t get. It was the demon I held inside of me, reminding me why I shouldn’t love him. And it was the knife that stabbed through my thinning layer of self-esteem wielded by my former best-friends’ boyfriends.
I couldn’t wait for the day to come when I could get rid of it.
When I was 18, my mother, sister and I booked the appointment and spent a pleasant afternoon debating our choices. We settled on Elizabeth for me. My maternal grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s name. Elizabeth, one of those names that any girl might have.
When I signed the paper with my new name I thought I was erasing the boy that was never born. I thought I was one step closer to erasing the man who I thought never wanted me. A father who never could have loved me.