I need a new name. We get new tennies when our shoes wear out. We upgrade phones. Some of us get new partners, new jobs, new houses. Is this too much to ask in my generative years? I’ve had this name over 70 years. It’s worn out, and I’m tired of caring what went before.
One reason heritage poetry writing vexes me is that I’ve accumulated so much history. It makes me think deeply when I add my known ancestral history to my decades on the planet. I can’t help it. Truly, I find it easier to make sense of the present than the past.
Is this wanting a new name an attempt to articulate an identity for my retirement? Or am I deep down still angry and unforgiving for the things that happened to Laura? Have I not let her off the hook for failures, both real and imagined? Jeez, I think I have. Then we are asked to write a poem, and I’m doubting.
A new name, a label, might affirm my freshly sprouting identity. [I am and am not the same person today.] I am outgrowing old ways, or, what if this name kick is simply a new tool for my survival kit? Then I should rather order up a new nervous system that doesn’t reverberate with trauma, instead of a new name.
If I have to be Laura, I’d like my stolen childhood back. I don’t have much time left now to be free, playful, curious. If I am essentially the same person who walked through all those old life episodes, then I will throw the memoir baggage overboard. Am I reduced to an additive version of life? Really?
I argue that my fresh name will not connect to wasted years because it will be founded in more than my poor parents and ancestors could do. Why be stuck with being made out of the past when the present is so powerful, so lovely and provocative? Epigenetics, yes! Wait… I wonder if my genes are being turned off?
I guess I wouldn’t be able to use it officially all over the place, because not being called “Laura” would be inconvenient for some, and probably hurt my mother’s feelings, since she gave it to me.
Laura, the song, became a jazz standard. It was written over a weekend by David Raskin for the movie of same name. His wife left him and the romantic, haunting theme “wrote itself.”
I never liked the sound of it when my mother sang bits of it to me and frankly, I was a bit burned on the romance thing during my life. Finally, I found a good therapist. I need to ask if I’m having a Late Life Crisis.
I would like a name that means I’m acceptable, loved. I want a painter’s name, a writer’s pen name, an artist. My name will remind me to be in love with life. Which I mostly am now, if I get enough sleep. When I’m not wrestling with memoir poems.
One that reminds me to love myself. I’ve been growing and getting to know who I really am, sorted out from the filed labels, accusations and awards. If that person will please stand up, we can pass out the new name badge.
This name will embolden me to speak up for what I need, to say what it is I want. Like normal people do.
Someone suggested my name will come to me in a dream. Another said over her shoulder at the coffee pot, “The first word that came to my mind was, ‘River.’”
“Huh, that sounds good,” I said.