Mary Kendall
A Girl Who Wished for an Elegant ‘e’
by Mary Kendall

1. My Name

My name at birth was Mary Ann.
Grandpa called me Manya.
The old Polish mid-wife called me Marisha.
Daddy called me Marishka.
Momma called me Mary Ann.
Not one felt right to me.

I was six and my names felt wrong.
I was a nameless princess
in my child’s dreamy mind.
It was a lot like finding Cinderella,
fitting the perfect foot into the slipper,
only no prince would rename me.
I had to do it by myself.

2. A Plan

Once I learned to read and write,
the problem became clear.
Mary Ann looked too plain,
like a little cat without a curlicue tail.
It just didn’t balance.

I knew if I could add an ‘e’ to Ann, it
would become the beautiful Mary Anne.
A name worthy of me. Oh, I had such dreams!
That beautiful, final, elegant ‘e’ might turn me
into a perfect child, a little girl whose hair
would fall in perfect strawberry-blonde curls
(no rag curls for her!). A girl would dazzle
with sweet dimpled smiles as she pirouetted
flawlessly across the old linoleum floor.

A perfect little girl, sweet Mary Anne,
the girl I really could be—if only for an ‘e.’
One letter, that’s all I wanted.

3. School

At first I said nothing. I simply added
the lonely little ‘e’ that someone forgot.
Mary Ann became Mary Anne.

In my head, I pictured myself and how
I changed now that I was Mary Anne.
My hazel eyes looked greener, and
I imagined wearing a dawn pink dress
with delicate tatting around the collar.
It was brand new, not a hand-me-down.
I had shiny black patent leather shoes
with a delicate thin strap and fine white
ankle socks soft as a kitten’s ear.

Daddy would dote on me, his lovely
Mary Anne (no longer Marishka),
the favorite of his three daughters.
And so the story went in my head,
all my dreams would come true, all
by adding that magical, elegant ‘e.’

I wrote my name ~ Mary Anne ~
using my best writing to make it pretty.
One day the teacher asked me
to stay back during recess. She smiled
and quietly explained that my name
was Mary Ann, not Mary Anne.
It was on my birth certificate, baptismal
certificate and in the school’s records,
so that was that: The ‘e’ had to go.

And with the lovely little ‘e’ gone, so
too went my dream of Mary Anne
dressed in pink, patent leather and
smiling dimpled smiles all day long.

4. A New Plan

I’ve never given up all that easily,
and with the loss of that beloved ‘e,’
I decided that I should now be called
Mary. Not Mary Ann (without the ‘e’).

Just Mary. Plain Mary. Simple Mary.
Little Mary. Mary Had a Little Lamb
Mary. Demure Mary. Sweet Mary.
Mary, no longer a princess, but still
very much an excellent dreamer.

When someone called me “Mary Ann,”
I’d pretend not to hear. But, if they
called me “Mary,” I’d look right up,
smile and answer. The kind, gentle teacher
was helpless this time. ‘Mary’ alone
was still really a part of my name.

So Mary was born six years after Mary Ann.
She wore hand-me-down dresses and plain
saddle shoes or Mary Janes in navy blue.
She still dreamt of thin white cotton socks,
soft as a kitten’s ear (and why not?).

One by one my friends began to drop the
Ann (without an ‘e’). The teacher did too.
Even in my family I became just Mary.
Mary, Mary, Mary. Not really too contrary.

4. Decades Later

Of course all these decades later, ‘she’
still exists—Mary Ann. After all, she
was on my birth certificate, which meant
she later appeared on my driver’s license,
bank accounts, social security card, Passport,
and even my marriage certificate. She appears
again and again, but I keep her in check.

Even now it pains me a bit to write it,
although I must. Lifting up my lovely
English fountain pen, and in my very best
script, I slowly form her name:

                  Mary Ann

She wins. Always. She really does.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a true story about how I changed my name from Mary Ann to Mary in first grade. Even after all these years, I sometimes long for that elusive ‘e.’

kendall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Kendall is a poet and a retired teacher who lives with her husband in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Erasing the Doubt, in April 2015. She is also a co-author of A Giving Garden. Mary has a poetry blog called A Poet in Time.