My name is Story.
I thought it was Saunders, which was make believe, too. My grandfather changed our surname long, long ago as he made his way west with his young bride and children, attempting to escape his troubles in the 1940s. The stories of his past under lock and key.
When I married, I kept my maiden name, becoming a hyphenator to honor this idea that we can become anyone we want. But now I know, thanks to a newly found aunt with a knack for genealogy that his name was actually Story. The net is the same: make believe.
And my grandfather's young bride who first took this name? Her name was Laura. Dark eyes; troubled. Her mind a splinter, her body a mechanism for having babies in between drinks. She abandoned her husband. She abandoned many children, including my father, left to be cared for by various fathers or systems designed to catch the unwanted. As the time period dictated, her mind went untreated and the cycle continued. A legacy woven into the DNA of those who survived her. I hear her sometimes. I think she asks for forgiveness. She didn't know.
"I don't feel good about this one. Do you want to see something spooky?" How can I say no to that? We hop into his old truck--me and my dad. Me, clean with my new adult life. Dad, dirty blue uniform, standard attire for his scrapping business. We head out of town making our way to a long dirt road in the middle of the desert. Stark, empty, tumbleweed rolling along the dusty path until we find it. We felt it first. A heaviness. A place that has seen too much. He pulls into the driveway, turns off the ignition. We pause knowing that we cannot unsee nor undo our next steps. He surveys the land for the scrap metals he is contracted to remove. I follow him toward a deep cut into the earth. Steps lead down to where a trailer has been buried. The unmistakable chemical stench of an abandoned meth lab stops us from venturing further. Silently, we make our way to the dilapidated house. The back door is ajar--we call out to warn of our intrusion. Empty. Dark. Walls painted black and macabre figures scrawled on all surfaces. Holes have been chiseled into the concrete floor and then painted red to make shallow pools, shimmering with fungi and insects. "Dad, what the hell is this place?" He shakes his head and we step over animal carcasses, feathers littering the path. Room after room, we find more of the same: remnants of food, trash, and animals. At the end of the hallway, we open the last door to find a room with light soaring in from the unpainted, unbroken window, pink walls, and discarded toys. "How could she do this? To her kids? How could she do this?" I hear him whisper. I turn around and see tears streaming down my dad's face, transported to another time, broken like a promise.
When your name is Story, permission is granted to step into the darkness; to mine it for meaning.
"She loved you so much." I tell my blue-eyed boy. I close my eyes remembering another darkened house, off a dusty road perched on a hill in the middle of the desert. Windows broken, mattresses on the floor, limp bodies stirring under covers. A little boy with big blue eyes clutches his mother. She is everything to him. I survey the dirty diapers and rotting food taking over all the surfaces. Those eyes. searching, seeing everything but unable to process. She would die roughly a decade later leaving those blue eyes to always wonder, his mind fragmented between story and reality. In the end, they are both the same, so I reassure him he was loved. She would want him to know this.
When your name is Story, permission is granted; to bring light into the darkness.
In kindergarten we were asked to make a puppet of who we would be when we grew up. I made a bride. I was embarrassed when the other kids shared their firemen, doctors, and supermans, but it was the only thing my 5-year-old mind could picture. My only visual of the future was a symbol of wanting to be loved. I saw it in my mom and the other moms in my neighborhood as they kept house and tried to keep their minds from splintering from the tedium. I saw it in my dad and the other dads who worked so hard at their day jobs and the roles they thought they had to play. I see it now as my children look for acceptance from anyone other than themselves, a rite of passage. Although the feminist in me crinkles her forehead at that white dress and veil, my heart knows that it is in part my destiny: to love those who need it the most.
When your name is Story, permission is granted; to bring light into the darkness and to course correct.
I write my story.
Because it is my name.
It is my birthright to tell you how I see it.
My name is Story.
Our name is Story.