Friday afternoon at work I spoke to someone who had a rather unique first name, spelled in a truly original fashion. Jyneice (which I would have spelled G-i-n-i-s-e) and I broke from our regular conversation to chat about the fact that she didn’t like her name, and I told her I never liked mine.
Sunday night, I was mulling this over, and I wrote the following, longhand, because being at the computer was bothering my eyes.
It seems strange to write it so baldly, so matter-of-factly, but the truth of it is, I’ve never liked my first name. I’ve always thought it ordinary, frumpy, prissy, over-used, or just plain boring, and sometimes, all those things at once.
For a day or so, when I was all of nine years old, I tried to change my name, announcing to the world that I should be called “Kate” from that moment on. (I’d picked it because it seems breezy and pert, not too girly, but still feminine.) To my dismay, much as I love the name, it just didn’t fit. I was named Melissa when I was born, and apparently the name and I were stuck with each other.
When I was ten, I wrote a book of poetry and distributed it to my family and a few friends, using the “nome de plume” of “Annie M. Klein.” (My middle name is Annette, and Klein is a part of my birth-name (that’s maiden name to the unenlightened), so it wasn’t an invention so much as a rearrangement.) Later, in junior high school and the early bits of high school, I tried to dress up my name, by changing the spelling (I was aided in this by reading The Annotated Dracula and noting (along with the snide comment even if people stutter their diaries should not) that one of the brides was named Melisse.) Melisse, Melysse, Melyssa, and the long and extremely awkward Melissendra, were all options I played with. (I confess, I still love the way Melysse looks in print.) But that was a phase I grew beyond, just as many people grow out of dotting their i’s with hearts.
And then, tonight [Sunday night], I was picked up Bella Tuscany from the stack of books left in the bathroom, and flipped open to a passage that made me love my name. The author was describing local herbs, wild medicinal plants, that are still used in Italy, though not commercially. She said, “…wild melissa gives golden dreams…” and even though she was referring to a kind of lemon balm, it didn’t matter. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, the seven ordinary letters of my name (six with a duplicate, if you want to be a purist about it) danced with warm magical light, and sparkled with happiness and hope, and all those other gushy emotions you feel when the mental lightbulb clicks on.
Wild melissa gives golden dreams, I think there might be a new journal theme/title in those words. Someday.