I was just a kid living out in the country in a little town in red dirt Oklahoma during the 1960s. Having been born in the late fifties.
But then when I turned six I began attending an elementary school. And from that day forward I was no longer sheltered from reality.
At home I lived with my Granny and my grandmother. They worked hard in the garden and cooked three meals a day.
Every day I went to the hen house to gather eggs. Gently lifting the chickens and reaching underneath for the warm eggs that I carefully carried to the house.
I played jacks and marbles, made up games and stories, and never really thought about who I was. Because to young children it doesn’t really matter.
Until suddenly it does.
At school everything changed.
One day someone official at the school told me that I could no longer sign my name as I’d been signing it.
I didn’t understand why. She told me that it wasn’t my legal name. It was my Granny’s name. But it wasn’t mine.
Then who was I?
They took more from me than a last name that day. No one had prepared me or told me the truth.
It was as though a Pandora’s box had been opened and no one wanted to acknowledge it.
I then felt like more than a name separated us.
They had evidently not been prepared for anything like “legal names” to enter the picture.
But you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube.
And I couldn’t have the name that made me feel that I was part of them. Which suddenly made all the difference in the world.
My Granny had taken me in when I was just an infant. But she couldn’t give me her name.
I had to start using my “legal” name, even though I didn’t know the people associated with it. It didn’t seem fair.
That was when I first realized that nothing about life was fair.
Children were to sign their name properly with the name listed on their birth certificates. No exceptions.
I didn’t want that name. Or the people who gave it to me. And evidently they hadn’t wanted me either.
A last name that I was stuck with. With questions no one was around to answer.
Still I asked: “But who am I?”
And for way too long, no one answered.