Posts Tagged ‘autobiography’

What’s in a Name

after “Wunderlich” by Mark Wunderlich

It’s not the aromatic herb that means remembrance.
It’s spelled R-O-S-E-M-E-R-R-Y, which means
it is almost always misspelled by others,
even though I spell it out. Even though I say,
Merry, as in merry go round—
as in Merry Christmas. I give up often
on the spelling because I have learned
I’m happier that way.
It means granddaughter of Rose, who
was one of sixteen children in Illinois,
who cared for all her siblings and so never
finished school herself. Rose who cleaned
homes and vacationed in Vegas,
who waltzed and wore red nail polish
and made fancy Slovenian nut bread
she slathered with soft butter.
It means granddaughter of Merry
who planted vast gardens and drank
Bloody Marys and arranged the flowers
for the church altar on Sundays. Merry
who had a gift for painting and sang
soprano in the choir. It means “too sincere.”
It means “cries when she says I love you.”
It means “can’t understand sarcasm without help.”
It means “unable to wink with the left eye”
and “afraid of driving Red Mountain Pass.”
The name was once listed on the gym wall
in Pewaukee Elementary School
as the reigning toe touching champion,
because Rosemerry also means short legs,
overly flexible hamstrings, and long arms.
In the mid-’90s, McDonald’s chose the name
for a Happy Meal Toy—a pink-haired sky dancer
with long green legs. Now, the name is found
on recipe cards around the world
for ginger cookies, zucchini pie and dark rye bread.
It’s carved in an aspen tree on Lookout Mountain
and is not tattooed on anyone’s arm.
There are no Greek myths about Rosemerry—
no stories in which she is chased
by a god and then turned into a bird or a tree,
though sometimes I hear Rosemerry stories
that sound like myths to me.
The name means “unable to wear clothes with patterns.”
It means “quitter of ballet.”
It means “always two hours shy of an extra five minutes.”
Recently, a friend pointed out it’s nearly homophonous
with “rows merrily” as in “down the stream,”
but unfortunately it’s also synonymous with seasickness,
carsickness, airsickness and now a near constant
feeling of being rocked, even on dry land.
And though it does not mean “easy going,”
it does mean “loyal, devoted.”
It means “stubborn.”
It means “willing to try again.”
It means a girl who wanted to grow into her name.
It means a woman who carries her grandmothers with her,
remembers them everywhere she goes.

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