It was funny to hear Jessi call me Annie. She loved my name and she always called me Flower, sometimes even in front of friends, like she was flaunting being the one person with that privilege. The two boys who had just seated themselves uninvited in our booth were not our friends.
As much as I’ve always hated my name, I liked it when Jessi called me Flower. There was something about the way she said it, even from the first time in kindergarten, that just made it sound pretty. It made me feel pretty too, a luxury mirrors didn’t afford. At the moment, I felt nervous, and I was grateful she’d protected my dignity.
Flower Schilde is a name that you just don’t give your little girl if you have any feelings for her at all. I was supposed to be born Margaret. That’s the name my parents agreed on. Daddy claims he changed it because when he first saw me in the delivery room, I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He just wanted to give me a name that reflected it. I’m skeptical. Daddy considers beauty some kind of criminal offense. Besides, I spent the next fifteen years being mistaken for a boy, even by my own grandfather.
It wasn’t just the hippie connotations I caught grief for. I’ve probably been asked, “Is that your real name,” as often as anyone, with due deference to the girls of the world named Sweetie Pie and Baby. I got lots of references to the skunk in Bambi too, many of them not so nice, and it really didn’t work out well for me at all that Flower was a boy skunk.
Sophomore English was a perfect example of why I hated my name. My parents had called me Annie as long as I could remember, except for when I was in trouble. It was a custom in our family to go by your middle name. Yet for some reason, they always forgot and filled in my school registration with my birth certificate name. There were times I thought it was intentional, and Daddy was probably laughing at his desk imagining the discomfort he’d caused me.
Mr. Smythe called out roll for fifth period on the first day of school.
It was followed by the accustomed snickers.
“It’s Anne, sir.”
He peered up at me over the top of his glasses. “It says Flower here.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s me and I’m pretty sure it’s Anne,” I said. “…Annie.”
He made some scribbles in the ledger. “Anne Schilde?”
“Here.” I rolled my eyes.
He marked me present and peered over the top of his glasses again. “Have I ever had any of your siblings in my class before, Anne?” he asked. “An older brother or sister?”
“No sir. I don’t have any brothers or sisters.”
He stared at me blankly. “I’m surprised your parents didn’t name you Only,” he deadpanned, and then glanced around to see which students had laughed.
I’m surprised your parents didn’t name you Jerk! I thought. I didn’t feel like getting kicked out of class for saying it.
There were cruder remarks of course, referring in one way or another to a flower as a part of the female anatomy. They really don’t need to be repeated. It was largely due to these latter offenses that my teachers were requested after the mirth of first roll call each semester, to please address me by my middle name. And so while most everyone knew my first name, they all called me Annie.
But Jessi called me Flower. So it was obvious when she called me Annie, she was telling me she didn’t think we should get too familiar with the two boys sitting next to us now in Marlin’s ice cream parlor.
© 2012 Anne Schilde