I am the middle child, but the first daughter. I have a name I’ve grown to like … but I did have to grow to like it. Part of what I didn’t like was that it doesn’t really come from anywhere. My brother’s name comes from my mother; my sister is named for a movie star. And then there’s my name. And then I remembered this:
Cathy Song (b. 1955 — )
from Lost Sister
even the peasants
named their first daughters
the stone that in the far fields
could moisten the dry season,
could make men move mountains
for the healing green of the inner hills
glistening like slices of winter melon.
And I read that and I think … Jade? Who would I be as a Jade? I can’t imagine. Ok, Song’s talking about a Chinese custom, not an African American one, but still. I think this means my sister would be ‘Pearl,’ which I also can’t imagine.
Jade. No, she really isn’t me. I’d have been some totally other woman with that name. And think of all the things I’d have missed.
(I wouldn’t have met cute, underground-rocker boys in Prague who couldn’t get ‘Stacie’ and so called me ‘Anastasia’ in their deep, cigarette-scratchy voices instead. I wouldn’t have had Annabell calling me ‘Daisy’ all the years she was my student, seeing my name on the board and asking — every time — “Daisy, why you spell your name so it looks like Stacie?” And so many other things missed.)
And, too, my middle name comes from my mother. And it certainly isn’t as though my first name was pulled out of a hat or some such random selection. No. My mother, the former actress, was very aware of the power of names, was careful which ones she chose for her children. So here I am: not Jade, not Stephanie, not even Anastasia. Stacie. (I want to write ‘Plain and Tall’ after that, but only the ‘tall’ part rings true now. I could once have been thought plain, but those days are long gone!)
So it seems that, yet again, my mother really knew best!