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Thursday, September 15, 2016

My father said, "Let's name her ..."

 My mother said, “Only if we spell it the right way.”

She meant, the Hebrew way. Not “Debra,” the modern, stripped-down, secular version that would make for great playground moments of shame.

Not that shortened version only one letter away from Zebra, as if I were an illustration for the last letter of the English alphabet, a poor animal kidnapped from its ancient homeland, caged for children to point at.

Not the easier-to-spell, 50's B-movie-star, untethered way.

No, my mother meant Deborah, a name full of lineage, a name whose sonorous syllables conjure up the steady gathering of golden pollen all day long, the defensive don’t-fuck-with-me sting, the die-for-my-hive-sisters attitude. 

My mother knew right then, right there, at UCLA Hospital in October 1961, before anything else but my miraculous birth had happened, before any of the apocalyptic moments ahead of us had peered over the horizon, that her brown half-Indian, half European girl would need the real thing.   

Deborah, the venom and the honey. Deborah, the fury and the dance. Deborah, the howl and the song.

She did not know she would only be with me for forty years. She did not know that she would abandon me a thousand times before that final departure. She did not know that she herself would inscribe my body with the scars that spell out our severed story.

But she left me with a name that would stay, a name I have grown into at last.

A name like the guardian she could never be.

1 comment:

  1. "Al ha-d'vash v'al ha-oketz" ... For the honey and the sting.

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