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.
I was wrong.