historically, civilization has been reported as having been led by men. often times you read that families are who and what they are because of the sweat and tears of their patriarch. not mine. i come from a long line of woman who have not allowed their lives to be dictated by the gender roles of their time. it has never once occurred to me that i couldn’t do what i wanted, or that i wouldn’t be good at something. i’m sure i owe that link in the chain of my personality to the woman whose blood courses through my veins.
the matriarch of our family no longer travels. i know that it pains her to miss out on the weddings and other parties that bring our family members together. ours is a greater loss. she is one dynamic lady and a whole lot of fun to be around. this year, for my birthday, i asked my mother if she would like to visit her, my great aunt, the woman for whom i am named. she moved to south carolina 4 years ago to be closer to her youngest daughter. it’s no slight to her other 3 children. she didn’t see herself as the snow bird in florida after her husband died, and the rest of her children live up in the cold north. south carolina is a good fit. she is almost giddy when she talks about her house, the only one she has really ever chosen. it’s somehow bright and airy and warm and cozy at the same time, just like her.
we talked and played cards. we drank wine and went to the movies and the theater. she knows how to show people a good time.
she has this engaging quality when you are talking. she makes you feel smarter than you are and funnier too. best of all she raves. our family doesn’t really have a medium speed. our highs are the highest and our lows are the lowest. when someone makes dinner, it’s the best peanut butter and jelly sand witch we’ve ever had. when you’ve dropped the ball, it’s the worst thing you could have ever done. it’s not disingenuous, it’s just who we are. we get it from mamma (my great grand mother, and my great aunt beth’s mother). some, having left the fray of family, have ventured out into the world, and realized that the world doesn’t rave. fear not, call home and fill someone in and they will rave for the rest. i often call my mother having felt like i fell short of the mark as a parent on any given day, with the plea of “tell me i’m good”, i need you to rave.
it didn’t take long for us to realize that aunt beth has aged. her mind is still sharp as a tack, but she gets tired. we’re didn’t worry, she’s earned that right. i went to visit her because she’s great fun and i had missed her, but also because she is the last of the old guard. she has a living brother, but she is our matriarch. i wanted to have her pour out her life worth of stories for me, the story teller. she is the last person living, who lived in the house with my grandmother (her older sister) and my mother and aunt after my biological grandfather was killed in WW II, an event that changed the lives of all of these woman forever. this subject was off limits with my grandmother, so my mother’s understanding of these events and her place in them is limited. she has questions that were on their way to being answered when my grandmother was dying. aunt beth holds the answers to these questions as she sees them, but it will never be enough. although, i do think this visit helped my mother put to rest some of the hurt she felt. i will always be grateful to beth for that.
what is a name?
my name is elizabeth ann. i was named after the younger sister of my mother’s mother. as a baby and small child i was bethie. in the presence of my great aunt, i am little beth (the irony being that we are both pretty little and, she’s the first to admit, she is getting smaller all of the time). when i was in second grade there was another beth in my class. i decided that this was perfect time to start going by elizabeth…..it didn’t take. when i went to college i tried again. i realize that elizabeth is a long name, but when someone introduces themselves to you, chances are the name that they use is the name that they would like to be called. often times people’s first question to me would be, what do people call you. well, i know people who call me asshole, but my name is elizabeth. some people called me elizabeth, but the vast majority called me liz. liz is a fine name. i have a aunt liz, i like her quite a lot, but it’s not my name. when i came back to town after college, i hoped to do it as elizabeth. unfortunately, the person who introduced me to stubby hubs hunk, called me liz. this meant that everyone that i met through him also called me liz. i never referred to myself this way, but no one seemed to notice.
it was after visiting aunt beth that it became clear why this bothered me so. i am named for a woman whom i admire and respect. my parents felt the same way about her. that’s why they chose the name and to honor her in this way. it might seem silly to you. what you call me doesn’t define me. i know this.
yet, i am no more a liz than a gertrude or penelope.
the name’s beth…..
elizabeth if your nasty
(it was too tempting, i had to throw the janet jackson reference in).