I’ve always kind of had an obsession with names – or choosing one’s name, specifically. I remember being in writing class, learning about the backgrounds of writers like Toni Morrison – who is actually Chloe Anthony Wofford. I think it was her sister who called her Toni, and Morrison is her ex-husband’s last name. Then there’s Toni Cade Bambara, whose real name is Miltona Mirkin Cade. She changed her name, adding “Bambara,” the name of a West African ethnic group.
Even then, when I was thinking of my writing name and not a stage name, I was enthralled with the idea of choosing a name – which is akin to choosing an identity. Like most people, I have a host of nicknames given by the various people in my life: my given name, the abridged version used by my family and close friends, the name my nieces and nephews call me and all of its variants (Mimi, Meem, Meemster…), my capoeira name and its abbreviations (leite de coco, ldc, leitinha)…the list goes on. And while each of these names is special to me, they were all given to me. I didn’t choose any of them myself.
Which I think is why this moniker – Ada Lavender – is different, special to me in a unique way. “Adah” was my grandmother’s name. She was a rock of a woman who was a complex mix of generosity, stubbornness, loyalty, and a bottomless kindness. I’m not sure I have any of those qualities (except the stubbornness…), but I know I’d like to. I also like that “Ada” isn’t a common name, my grandmother was not a common woman, and somehow, I hope that beautiful “uncommonness” rubs off on me. And “Lavender” because, well, I like lavender. The color, the scent, the implications of serenity. But because I’m a language nerd, I also like the sound of the repeated “d” and the brevity of “Ada” without the “h”. (<-Now you know why I’m a writer, eh?)
How is your name tied to your identity? How the name your boss calls you resonates with one part of your personality, but the name your lover calls you, whispered in the early morning with soft breath, is something totally separate but still contained within you. I find that seeming impossibility so very intriguing.