Unnamed by Lily Batchelor

After I was born via c-section, my mom fell soundly asleep, so my dad took care of me for the first few hours of my life. When he applied for my birth certificate, he had free reign, and decided to name me before my mother woke up. He gave me a sound and sturdy name: Lily Josephine Batchelor. Before I was born, my parents had agreed that my first name would be Lily, because it was simple but elegant. However, when my mother discovered that my middle name was Josephine, which is my paternal grandmother’s name, she was afraid her mother, Viviana, would be upset. She also wanted my last name to be hyphenated, so both of their family names would be part of my surname. Of course, my dad swears this isn’t what happened, but if my mom had been involved in the naming process, this wouldn’t even be part of my family lore.

Years later, my mom, still determined to rectify the situation, asked me if I wanted to change my name. I had always found the story amusing, but it had never occurred to me that I could alter my name. I thought more deeply about what my name meant to me and what it communicated to the world. My decidedly British father had given me a decidedly British name, but it only reflected one part of my cultural identity. I had always been proud of my Argentinian heritage, but no one seemed to know I was Latina; my peers’ reactions ranged from disbelief to indignation. I wondered if a more Hispanic-sounding name would help people acknowledge my heritage.

I eventually asked my dad if he would sign a name-change petition. I wasn’t sure what new name I would choose, but I knew I didn’t want a name that didn’t include my mom’s family. My dad gave me an ultimatum: if I learned to speak Spanish, he would allow me to change my name. Until then, he felt I wasn’t Hispanic enough.

I periodically pestered my dad to amend his position, but he wouldn’t budge. Although I was frustrated he didn’t think I was Hispanic enough―in a sense, he’s right. Only two generations of my mom’s family lived in Argentina. My Jewish ancestors were forced to flee Eastern Europe before World War II and seek refuge in Buenos Aires. Later, the tumultuous political situation in the 1960s forced my mother’s family to move to Baltimore.

I have already met the conditions of my dad’s ultimatum. After years of taking Spanish classes, I traveled to Perú as part of a Spanish immersion program and hope to spend a semester studying in Argentina. Even though my dad said he would give me permission, I will change my name when I’m no longer a minor, so it will be my decision and a reflection of who I am. I’ll include some aspects of my original name in my modified version. I’ve grown too accustomed to my first name to change it. Additionally, my tea-drinking habits and proclivity for dry humour suggest that I have a lot in common with my dad and his British heritage. My new name will reflect both sides of my identity.Although they no longer live there, my mom and her father have instilled a love of Argentina in me. At family functions, a charming and eclectic blend of Spanish and English can be heard. When I talk about Argentinian culture, including foods like alfajores or chimichurri, my friends don’t understand what I’m talking about. And when my family gets together every weekend, we have asados, not barbeques. My grandpa, who got my uncles to construct an enormous grill in Argentine style, taught me how to cook. My immediate family may not have stayed in Buenos Aires, but the culture continues to have a significant impact on my life.

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