Theodosia has been indignant all her life, mostly because she’s named Theodosia.
“Why couldn’t I have been named Cynthia Jane?” she asks me. “That was Grandma’s name and no-one in the family used it. That schoolteacher named me after herself. She sent Mommy a gift with a note attached that said, “For baby Theodosia, and Mommy did what the teacher said.”
She’s tried to get rid of it by shortening it. Theo was her first choice but that sounded mannish, and her sisters said Dossie sounded like a douche. She had five sisters.
All with better names.
She’s sitting on a swing in her side yard. She wears a housedress, size 3x, both winter and summer as she never gets cold. In fact, even though the dress is one of her thinner ones, she’s perspiring. She perspires heavily when she gets worked up. She has a sheen across her upper lip, even in the shade. Or it could be where she’s just shaved. In addition to her unfortunate name, Theodosia is a hirsute woman. She uses a straight edge, then pats it down with Vaseline. That way she doesn’t get bumps.
“People named their kids anything then.” The swing creaks and she gets up, finding a place in a chair. She’s a heavy woman, and barely fits. The thin fabric of the housedress stretches over her thighs, threatening to bust. “Mommy should have known better, but she always looked up to teachers.”
Theodosia has always hated them. She wouldn’t go to school unless she was made to; she’d stop at the gate. Her sisters fought her, trying to get her to go, but she always got away. Finally, Pop had to walk her to school and allowed the teacher, in front of the class, to switch her.
She made it though 8th grade and quit. Then, she married Butler and now only comes out to sit in her yard. She said it was his business to earn the living.
She’s never learned to brave it out.
And I don’t have the heart to tell her what really happened.
It was a comma. Her mother, worn out with childbirth, overlooked the punctuation.
The card read, “For baby, Theodosia.”
It was simple card with a knitted layout by an old maid schoolteacher.
No strings attached.
Excerpt from That’s Not Love!” copyright Joan Spilman