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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

My name is __________.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Sorry Juliet, or should I say William Shakespeare? I doth protest.

Alice Louise is my name, and it was just a name - until middle school, that awkward age where you want to be like everyone else. Alice Louise bore no sweetness at all. This was the 80's. Julie, Tracy, Debbie, Stephanie, and Jennie were my best friends. Julie, Tracy, Debbie, Stephanie, Jennie, and… Alice. Which one of these does not belong? Please mark your answer by filling in the corresponding circle with a number #2 pencil. The only other Alice I knew was my mom’s age. There was Alice in Wonderland, of course. When was that book printed? Oh, right, 1865. An old lady's name, no doubt about that.

When I enquired, “Why ALICE?” my mother responded,

  “It was the first name both your father and I could agree on. It seemed nice.”

Great. Alice was a compromise. Being child number four, that was understandable, but I had hoped for a favorite relative, a famous movie star, something I could tout while surrounded by Tiffanys, Heathers, and Ashleys.

In my late teens, I stumbled on one of those metal twirly racks with bars holding laminated cards. Each card was printed with a name and its meaning. I gave it a spin, watching it squeal its way around to the A’s. Abigail. Adeline, Addison, Alexa (Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be called Alex. So hip, so cool.) I had little hope, but - hey! Here it was! Alice - Greek (alethéia): truth, truthful one. Now that was nice. I was TRUTH. It was a soothing balm.

My mother came home from the hospital with the adorable moniker of Suzy, though her birth certificate read Elisabeth Wyatt Davisson. Why? The reason is unclear, but it happened almost immediately as “Congrats on the arrival of baby Suzy!” was written on many cards in her baby book. This fascinated me when I was young; while my father and her friends called her Suzy, she wrote Elisabeth D Lyons on all her checks and official documents. My mother could tap into an alter ego whenever she wanted! It added to the exotic otherness I always felt in her presence.

I wanted to name my oldest daughter in honor of my mother. Did I call my child Suzy? I did not. We penned Elisabeth on the official document, followed by Alice. Elisabeth Alice Hutchins had a beautiful ring to it. People tried to call her Liz or Beth, or Betsy. “Elisabeth, with an S,” she would correct them. Once, twice, thrice, as many times as it took. She bears the weight of two old lady names, one with an unusual spelling, with great grace.

My mother stuck to her story about the origins of my name, Alice Louise, but upon digging further as an adult, I found both an Alice and a Louise buried deep in my parent's family trees. I don’t know why it mattered, but it did. Alice sat a bit lighter on my shoulders. I was not alone.

When my brother Charles’ daughter was about to be born in 2000, he said, totally out of the blue, “I want to name her Alice.” His poor wife was in no shape to argue, so Alice Catherine carries the recycled names of a sister and a cousin. This was a total shock to me. Charles was my distant older brother. I mean, we liked each other, but name your kid after me? Now that was BIG. “He must really love me,” I thought. That baby birthed a special bond between us.

As she grew, I would tease this little namesake, “Hi, Alice Jr.” She would glare the most ferocious glare,

“Don’t call me that!” She became Alice the Younger when there was a need to distinguish between Alices. While still annoying, this was deemed acceptable. I dare not ask what she thought of echoing a living relative. I was pretty sure she did not share my satisfaction with our connection.

After declaring myself a writer, I decided a nom de plume was needed. I was not expecting a swarm of paparazzi, rather, I needed a division of creative labor. The Alice washing dishes and feeding chickens should be distinct from the Alice whose clever fingers filled pages with wit and wisdom.

So I needed a ME, but not ME. Imagine if I went by Shirley, and someone said, “I love your work, Shirley!” across the book conference expanse, and I forgot to be Shirley! (*you can tell I daydream on an epic scale) No, better stick with Alice. After all, it has kinda grown on me.

So… Alice, but could I add a different last name? It has to flow, roll off the tongue. Short enough for signing books (see asterisk above). Then a brilliant thought, Wyatt. My grandmother’s maiden name is Betty Jane Wyatt. My mother’s middle name, following Southern tradition, is Elisabeth Wyatt Davisson. This branch of the family has flair. Architects, artists, and creative minds with a tendency for dramatic life. They lived brighter and bolder than other offshoots.

Alice Wyatt, yes, the perfect ME but not ME, and it rolls off the tongue with a lovely lilt. This is just right. Could I pull it off? This desire for a nom de plum felt silly, was it pretentious? Ah, it was fun! Go with it! I claim Alice Wyatt as my alter ego.

This past birthday, I carefully open a gift from Michael. The joyful anticipation on his face makes me curious. What could it be? A box. A beautiful wooden box with Alice Wyatt inscribed on the front. I lift the lid to find a beautiful pen set nestled in black velvet. They are heavy, ink flowing like silk across the paper. They close with an expensive “click.” I am happy— more than happy. The pens are nice, a thoughtful gift, but Alice Wyatt is so much more. It says, “I see you. I see value in what you love. I endorse you, pretension and all.”

  • My adult son introduces himself as Jon, though I named him JONATHAN very intentionally. I think of Michael's gift and try to remember to call him Jon.

  • When a familiar feminine face has a new masculine name, I go with the flow. The name carries the weight of a difficult story, one I don't need to know, but I do need to respect.

  • I meet a new friend: Grace, Grace, Grace with graceful long legs. I want to call her by name next time we meet.

  • We deliver foster kittens to the shelter, I have tears in my voice when I call out “Make sure they know their names! Doug, Lou, Agnes, and Tobi! It's important!”

Yes, names are important. Juliet wishes Romeo to become a rose by another name because Montague is a barrier to her happiness. Oh, Juliet, you silly girl. A name is a thing to be honored, remembered, and respected. A name, given or chosen, carries a bit of truth about who we are, who we want to be, where we come from, and where we are going. It may just take us a while to realize its beauty.

Alice Louise

aka Alice Wyatt

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Jul 07, 2023

Our Erica's name was a compromise too and while it is a lovely name I have softened it to Janie. She has had to explain this phenomenon to friends with a laugh and quick shrug of the shoulders. I hope she reads your post.

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