I have been largely silent for the last two months as far as the blog is concerned. I came out of a situation and was in what I thought by and large was a state of stasis. Sort of like suspended animation. What has transpired in those 7 weeks has been nothing that anyone could see, but on the inside, a lot has changed.
I was speaking to my friend, whom we shall call The Madhatter. She sees things thru different eyes than I as she sees the picture from the outside while I am living within the frame. Strangely enough the conversation hinged on some towels for my bathroom. I had been in a mad search for a shower curtain I could see in my head but could not lay my hands upon. Under such circumstances, I am never satisfied until I find what I am looking for and have it in my possession. The Madhatter is familiar with my obsession with such things and takes it as a part of my personality. On this day, I had found my shower curtain and was moving forward onto the other pieces of my vision. Bathrooms say a lot about people to me as it is a sanctuary much like a bedroom. It is where we care for the most intimate details of our person and as such should speak the loudest in my opinion. Nevertheless, the conversation turned to towels and I mentioned that I would like to find someone to do a nice monogram for me. We progressed thru our conversation and I never thought about it again until I was looking for these towels. I needed a deep crimson red, a rich chocolate brown and a handsome burnished gold. A gold letter upon the red and brown with red upon the gold. They must be thick and thirsty as well as elegant looking hanging on the rack. It was at that point that an odd question reared its head that I have been examining since. What letter would I use?
All of my life I have been called something besides my name. My father is the youngest of 11 and my mother the youngest of 9. As their youngest child I am known as “Sissy” which has been shortened to “Sis” as I have aged. The entirety of both sides of the family call me by that name. My beloved brother was older than I so when I entered high school I was known as “John’s little sister.” Then I met and married Richard and became “Mrs. Richard.” He called me “babe” and later “Hunibuni.” My son was born and I became “Drew’s Mom.” In Richard’s illness I answered to “The patient’s wife” and as his father is a pastor with his deaconship the name became either “The Pastor’s daughter-in-law” or “The Deacon’s wife.” Lastly I became “Richard’s widow.” I have been cut and trimmed, broken and beaten, as well as crammed and slammed into someone else’s box all of my damned life. So now, as I take my tentative steps into a foreign world, what am I to call myself? Now that I haven’t a box what shall I do?
One would think this an easy question since I write my name everyday. In high school, I was one of those girls who wrote my boyfriends name with mine and daydreamed of who I was to be when I grew up. Because of the culture I came out of my identity was tied to whom I married. I would be “Mrs. MyHusbandsName.” If you have daughters, this is a dangerous proposition. Because, if she is widowed early or divorced, her identity is something she will struggle with her entire life. I’ve always had issue standing up and introducing myself to people. Now, I have balls the size that roll behind Indiana Jones in the movies, but my own name doesn’t ring true in my mouth. Probably because I have never put any stock in that it meant anything. I have answered to anything anyone cared to call me because that’s just the way it was for me. But, what do I prefer to be called?
While I wrestled this conversation in my head, I decided to call The Madhatter back and finished what we had started. I needed to hash this mess out. She sees me as strong when all I can smell is weakness on my skin. She is my vision when I am blind to the world around me. She made a very simple declaration that cleared my confusion. I have walked a long road to be who that I am today. The fates and this hateful world has bent, pressured and tested me. Many things have been taken from me but the one thing that remains is my name. Not what everyone calls me, in most instances she calls me “The Belle” as it invokes my strength in her eyes. But the name I sign. I will never relinquish Richard’s last name because it also belongs to my son. I wear it with honor because it was given to me in love. I have worn his longer than I wore my father’s surname, although I was hyphenated long before it was fashionable. But as my form recovers from the shape of the boxes I have been made to fit into all my life, so must my spirit. I must recover and reclaim what is mine.
It has been said that I am a self made woman. My family is not sophisticated in their life nor in their manners. My sainted Grandmother taught me to be a lady in the way I thought and in the old way of how I carry myself. But I looked at the females in the cities I traveled to and here in Charlotte to determine how I would appear. I studied their mannerisms and customs. I shed my Appalachian appearance and manners years ago. I traded them for a classic look and an elegant countenance. I stripped off my closed mind and my judgmental mindset. I created a strong female who owns her mind and self-worth. Someone who can love you where you are and never ask you to change who you are fundamentally. I made a 180 degree turn from the small minded and dependant people who arise out of that culture. We live in a world of choices and mine is to be who I am today rather than whom someone else said I should grow up to be.
I ordered my towels today and the letter I chose is an “S.” So let me stand up in front of you all and introduce myself. My name is Sandra and I am the Real Deal Steel Magnolia. I am very pleased to meet me.