Saturday, November 2, 2013

Big Dreams and Drive-Through Lines

For the entirety of my childhood, all I ever wanted was a normal name.  I would go into stores and browse racks of personalized clutter, always hoping that someone, somewhere, would realize the loneliness my 8 year old self was enduring.

As you might expect, disappointment was plentiful.  

My mother intended for my name to be Deanna (dee-anna), but whomever filled in my birth certificate only put one N in the name.  My mother liked it even better, and because she understands how language works, my name became Deana (pronounced Dee-nuh).  It was also a nod to my dad (whose name is Dean) and my older brother (who is James Dean) as well as a nod to what might be perceived as my family's utter lack of originality (my nephew is Hunter Dean).

For a kid though, there's almost nothing worse than being different because:  DIFFERENT = WEIRD.

Having a different name was a daily reminder of my own weirdness.  I wanted to be a Carrie or an Ashley or a Lisa, like the other girls.  I wanted to have personalized pencils and license plates and lunchboxes.  And I didn't want some sympathy embroider job that my mom paid someone to do.  I wanted the real, live, pre-printed crap because:  PRE-PRINTED = NORMAL.

You can see here that I was a joy to be around as a kid.

Youngsters these days have it so easy, what with the internet printing whatever you please and making it look all NORMAL to have your name spelled any kind of jacked up way (looking at you people adding unnecessary z's and y's to your kids' names as if you're not going to cause them enough therapy-needing pain some other way).

I was 24 years old before I ever even met another Deana.  But she spelled her name "Deanna".  Her mother did not understand how language works apparently.  You'll notice that I'm a bit of a snob, now, when it comes to my name.  I spent most of my life answering to DeAnna, Dana, Diana, Dinah, or anything beginning with a D.  I've spent all of my life spelling and re-spelling slowly both my first and last name.

I've grown accustomed to my name, even growing enough backbone to correct its spelling or pronunciation with telemarketers or hostesses or new acquaintances.  I lost the people-pleasing need to overlook their mistakes or inattention to detail because I finally began to see my name as a gift from my language-loving mother and my very original dad.  And no matter how far apart my family drifts, I have at least 4 little letters that keep us connected.  I like that small comfort.

I've met a few more Deana's over the years, and it's been nice to know that I really wasn't alone in all those struggle moments.  I'd like to say that I've lost the need to see my PRE-PRINTED (read: NORMAL) name on a junky little gift, but I catch myself, eyes scanning the D-names at the booths in the mall.  There's still a little sigh of exasperation when I don't see myself there.

But sometimes when you least expect it -- say, you're just sitting in line for a Diet Coke and a biscuit -- the world opens up with the tiniest little shout-out, with a *dragon named "Deana".  A dragon, apparently, with big dreams.  And maybe you hold up the entire line to search for your camera in order to digitally capture a moment that's been 37 years in waiting.

On the cover of a children's book, no less.  I'd trade a million stupid pre-printed pencils for that.

*side note -- When I was 9, my brother, JD, won a giant pink and purple dragon for me at Six Flags.  He spent probably $30, trying to win it.  It was, and still is, my favorite gift he ever gave me.  Thanks for the reminder, Universe.

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