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ANNIE
Senior Managing Director - Poet Laureate

What’s in A Name?

Clarissa

 

My sister and I are named for our grandmother and great grandmother respectively. Lizzie for our grandmother Elizabeth and me for our great grandmother Clarissa Suejane. I have always envied Lizzie her name because it has so many options, or so I think, to be called from the name Elizabeth. When she became an adult, Lizzie insisted on being called Elisabeth with an ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’, but she is and forever will be Lizzie to me … as our grandmother was known to friends and family.

Now … Clarissa gave me no options. At least my mother had the presence of mind to name me Clarissa Jane rather than Suejane … and I so wanted everyone to call me Jane. My mother refused under no uncertain terms to allow me to use only Jane. Her reasoning was that some people are so means as to make fun of the name Jane … and didn’t want me called “Just Jane” or “Plain Jane”… so Clarissa it was.

In my teens I read Silence of the Lambs and ever time I wrote my name I saw Clarice and the horrors of that damned book. And yes, despite my mother’s best intentions, I was teased about my name … Clarissa in connection to that damned book. The teasing became torture when the movie was released and I saw Jodie Foster’s face every time I wrote my name.

In college, I decided to hell with my name and all the problems is caused me and went simply by my initials – CJ. It fit me … Clarissa was just to fancy … or terrifying depending upon how you reacted to it and Jane … well … it was too plain – sometimes mothers are right after all.

So … CJ it was for 4 years of undergrad and way too many years at the graduate level as I tried to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course my mother would never call me anything but Clarissa or Clarissa Jane in a moment of anger or frustration … even when I became an adult. 

Somewhere along the way I eventually did become Jane … much to my mother’s chagrin. Just as CJ fit me during those post high school, looking for something … anything to define who I was, now as a 40 something, Jane is who I have become. 

Funny how a name either is or is not a person. Lizzie became Elisabeth when she decided Lizzie or Elizabeth (too common a spelling) did not fit her personal image of the corporate lawyer she wanted to be. That was Lizzie. Always had a plan and a timeline for getting to her goal.

Then there was me … Plain Jane … who stumbled through life until I finally realized that all I ever wanted to do was write … oh not to be a writer of novels or poetry … no but to be a journalist … work for a newspaper or maybe a magazine. Give me a topic and I can crank out 800 – 1000 words with no problem. Ask me to come up with a story line and follow through to an eventual novel … not a chance.

So, here I sit in my humble little office – of sorts – at the local newspaper cranking out copy for the weekly edition. There are the usual local events to cover … football, basketball, etc. depending upon the season and the success of the local team and/or athletes and coaches. The who’s getting married to who and when. Pictures and brief copy about the first kill during dear season … that sort of thing. Those of you living in small town America know the kind of newspaper I mean. 

But, today I have the difficult task of reporting on recent deaths and helping families with a tribute of their loved ones. This is getting to be more difficult as the years go by and the parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents of friends begin to leave this realm.

Even harder today, is that I have the task … no the honor … of writing about my mother. She lived a long and wonderful life and I have recounted her many attributes. But, this is my mother I am writing about and I want it to be special … even though she told me one time a few years ago that she didn’t want any flowered-up nonsense when she died. 

So here I sit, Just Jane, with tears running down my cheeks, fogging up my glasses trying to do just that. Everyone knew her, loved her, and will miss her as a neighbor, friend, Sunday school teacher, and community volunteer for anything needing an extra hand. How can I tell people about her in a bland, cold calculated manner of most obits … she is my mother and to her I was always Clarissa because she loved me as she loved her grandmother.

  


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Exquisite

 

That summer was one of

Surprises

Change

Love

and…

Loss

 

When I think of those

hot summer nights

and even hotter days

the only word that

comes to mind is

Fireworks!

 

We met and started

out white-hot as a

bottle rocket

Continued to flame

and blaze through

day after day seeing

fireworks in everything

at every turn …

from wild and crazy

lightning storms risking

everything to get just

the right picture as

a single streak

connecting with

the ground

Celebrating the

4th of July at

the city parks

fireworks show

once again risking

it all to get just the

right exposure of

fireworks in the sky

All in all that summer

as Helprin so perfectly said:

“It was a mad and beautiful thing … “

 

Looking back to those memories

Remembering the fireworks not

only in the sky, but in our hearts

We could have had it all

But for one thing …

Commitment

By Annie - KITCHEN POETRY: Country Cooking & Love

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