My name means grace in Hebrew, though I don’t think that’s me at all. I may take pride in looking and acting graceful, but in actuality I’m rather clumsy. Kinda like how my name is pronounced. Nancy. It just never seems to sound right. Instead it sounds messy, as if someone threw a rock into the middle of the stillest pond just to watch the water jump as the rock sank with a “ka-plunk”.
It’s not a very common name, but even so it doesn’t make me feel unique. It makes me feel like a copy. A ghost. A shadow. Simply a way for my family members to remember someone who isn’t around anymore. My great grandmother. A supposedly loving woman, though I wouldn’t know. I never met her.
My grandmother talks about her constantly. She always seems to have fun stories to tell. Stories of warm apple pies, so pleasant you could smell the scent of cinnamon wafting through the air even when none was present. Tales of singing sweet melodies to make her mother happy. Unfortunately my great grandmother passed away a while ago so I never got the chance to meet this woman of legend. I only wish I knew her more. Seeing as I was named after her to “carry out [her] legacy”. Knowing I was named for such a purpose sometimes makes me feel special. Out of everyone I was chosen to be given the name of such a wonderful woman. Destined to be just as wondrous.
But then there are times when I don’t.
Don’t feel special. Don’t feel like I am this wonderful woman. This woman that everyone expects me to be. A woman that no matter how hard I try to reach her level I always seem to be just one step behind because the shoes I wear are two sizes too big and I constantly have to stop to pick them up and put them back on as she continues to walk away at an imaginable pace. It’s at these times I don’t feel like I amount to this woman at all. Instead I feel like nothing more than a clone. A fake. I am no Nancy Ann.
At least, I’m not that Nancy Ann.
No. I am me and no one else, and I can only thank my grandmother for reminding me of that. She doesn’t see me as some failed copy, rather she sees me as my own wonderful clumsy disrupted pond self. And she is not afraid to tell me how much she loves me. How much I mean to her, brighten her day, make her proud. And looking back to all these times I’ve made her smile, I can’t help but be glad that I am me.
The Girl Who Was
The photo halted her in life. Her brown hair draping over her right shoulder, bangs falling over her face. Arms outstretched behind her, holding up her torso. Green sweater hanging loosely from her shoulders. Legs tilted in the opposite direction of her body, one foot firmly planted on the ground, the other’s toes pointed to the floor. Large smile plastered onto her face as she sat there, posing awkwardly in a way only young children can do.
Oh, how I miss that smile.
If I take a moment and stare at the photo long enough I can feel it. Feel the joy she felt, all those years ago. Feel her excitement. Her exhaustion from posing for the camera for hours on end. I can remember the feeling of waxed wood beneath spread fingers, grainy from specs of dirt yet to be swept away. I can even still remember how awkward she felt wearing orange pants. She had wined and wined about the outfit, saying it didn’t look good. That the pants should have been a different color. She had never much liked orange, but eventually she grew to like them. But that was a long time ago.
As times go by and people change it gets harder to feel what she felt. See what she saw. Precious memories whisked away by time.
How I wish I never grew up.
Now all I can do is look at the little girl who was, and wonder. “What would she think of the girl she would become?” As for me, I can say how I feel of the girl she has become, and looking at the photo of the eight-and-a-half year old in orange cargo pants all I can feel is regret.
Regret for losing that little girl. Losing her smile, her laugh, the joy that was her. Losing the precious innocence that once was me, but is now shaped to the hands of social media and bound by the idea of actually fitting into society. I wish I could go back to being that little girl in the cargo pants. The little girl that didn’t have a care in the world about what others thought about her so long as she was happy. The little girl that had a mind formed by optimism and confidence that built a defense against all hate as strong as the wall of China. Nothing got that little girl down. No one could tell her what she was supposed to be. Nothing held her back.
I only wish her walls were as strong as they seemed.
Maybe then I would still be that little girl in the orange cargo pants. But like many walls, with time hers crumbled, and in came reality. In came ideas that she needed to change to be accepted. The ideas that if she gave up her childish ways she would gain even the slightest bit of respect from everyone around her. Just as easily did her mind find joy in her differences did it give into the temptations of acceptance. Acceptance in trade for everything that made her her.
I only wish she would have known. I wish she would have known she would have been scammed. That the world isn’t that easy. That even though she tried her best she now not only was an outsider but now she was someone so broken by the weight of the reality of the world that she would hardly recognise herself. If only she’d known, then maybe. Just maybe. I would still be that little girl in the orange cargo pants.