My Mom has two first names. Not a first and a middle name like we do in American culture. But two first names. She rolls them off her tongue with such ease that it intimates people around. She hates when people use only one name. She hates when they call her “Rosa” or “Rose”. The names that remind her of being reprimanded by her Mami or reminded her of family members with the same name. The way people over enunciate the name once they see her last name. “Row-za”, just the thought of it shoots a shiver down her spine.
That is not her name.
She speaks clearly and firmly, and repeats herself often. It’s uncommon to have two first names. Even though there are names like Anabel, Isabella, etc. Names that look so beautifully together. It’s almost too hard to comprehend that she was so special she needed two first names.
The name field is never big enough for her. Always cutting off half way through the second name. Having to remind every person she does business with that her name is composed of two names. Not first and middle name, but a full strong fuerte first name.
I didn’t understand it when I was younger.
“Why does it matter what they call you?”, I would say.
“Porque no es mi nombre”, she would reply.
Because that is not my name, she would say.
I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She is “Rosita” at home in Mexico. She is “Vieja” or “Honey” to my Dad. She is “Martha” to people who know her best. Why one name made such a difference. Why was it so important.
It was in the way people say her name. In the way people hesitate and question as soon as they read off her last name. They way people break down each name into individual entities. How people acted forgetful when they said her name. Then later annoyed when she corrected them. It became this battle between what was right and what was culturally correct. Another chance to Americanize her with what they think is right. It was taking something away from her that was a part of her. Taking away her name that she fought hard to protect all these years.
When she got sick, I understood. It was me correcting the doctors. It was me telling the nurses to re-do her paperwork correctly. It was correcting people who called her by one name as she walked into the office and watching them roll their eyes when I corrected them. It was correcting every single one of their hesitations and even correcting how they enunciated her name. Something that for years I thought wasn’t important, until I understood what it was like in her shoes.
Stop calling me by a name that is safe to you.
Stop trying to correct me as if I don’t understand you.
Stop hesitating the minute you see my name written in front of you.
I think back to the times I would argue with my Mom about it. How she needed to let it go, that people would never understand. Now that I am older I realize how important it is to her. How much it truly means to her.
My Mom has two first names and everyone should be okay with that.