Today -- March 20, 2006 -- is the 19th anniversary of the day that I moved to Hornell, NY, where I was forced to live for six years (almost as long as I lived in Florida!). How can I be so sure of the date? Because it is permanently and painfully etched in my brain, like a branding.
I didn't mind moving, and even now I don't want to give the impression that Hornell is all bad. But I was only eight years old and I was fully aware that there was something up with this new town that I was supposed to call home.
For starters, I couldn't get anybody to call me by my name. On my first day at Hornell Intermediate School, the guidance counselor took me into my new classroom and said, "Everyone, this is Liz." "I'm Beth Ann," I said. "Liz, you can have a seat over here," said my new teacher.
I corrected people as often as I could, and even brought in my yearbooks from my old schools to prove that my name was, in fact, Beth Ann. It didn't matter. They were very interested in the idea that other towns had yearbooks in elementary school, but they were not at all interested in calling me by my name.
I tried to compromise and suggested they call me Elisabeth. "That's not how you spell 'Elizabeth', Liz," said my teacher.
That's when my eight year-old self gave up. The people of this town were going to call me Liz no matter what I said. They had to call me Liz. They were comfortable with Liz. They'd never heard of a "Beth Ann" or an Elisabeth with an "s", and isn't it easier to just go with what you already know?
I think it's really good that that happened, actually, because it taught me right away everything I needed to know to live in that town. And it's not a bad place. Of course, it's not a great place, either. It's just a place, and I happened to be there for a while. Luckily, Maria was there, too. And Aaron came along not too much later.
And it's not a bad thing to be called Liz. I'm quite used to it now.
Anyway, I usually acknowledge this date by unintentionally clenching my jaw for several hours and then quite intentionally downing a vodka tonic. But that seems inappropriate this year, now that I'm living with Maria (who calls me Beth Ann) and Aaron (who calls me Liz). For all the frustrating, ignorant, nonsensical stuff that March 20, 1987, ushered in, there's been a lot of good stuff, too. And Maria and Aaron are at the top of the good stuff list.
P.S. Have you noticed that my posts have been insanely sappy lately? I sincerely apologize. I don't know what's come over me.