Thursday, February 4, 2010

annie sue butterworth.

The sun was big, bright, high. The Florida heat was almost impossible to bear, and so my mother took me down to a local hotel pool where a friend of mine had a membership. Our mothers would sit reading and tanning while we splashed for hours, content with the fact that our bodies would soon become prunes.

We played lots of games at the pool. We raced (I won; it’s perhaps the only sport I have ever been good at), practiced handstands, and imagined ourselves to be mermaids. And we talked, mostly about silly six-year-old things. Out of all of those summertime pool visits, one conversation sticks out in my mind.

My friend wanted to know: If I could be named anything in the world, what would it be?

If I could change my name, what would I change it to?

What would I like to be called, if all limits and boundaries were removed, if my parents were willing to do the paperwork?

I was appalled.

Change my name?

“My name is Annie Sue Butterworth,” I pointed out.

Why would I want anything more?


This name of mine has long been a source of pride, primarily because my name is not my own. It belonged to two ladies long before it ever belonged to be.

Growing up, my parents wasted no time in telling me just who I was named for. In their infinite wisdom, they had named their eldest child after the two women who meant the most to them: their mothers (my grandmothers).

Annie Ruth + Linda Sue = Annie Sue

I’ve heard the story more times than I can count. How my parents kept my name a secret, telling family members I would be named Kristen (my father’s name is Chris) Suzanne (my mother’s name is Susan). Clever, but I am forever grateful the name was nothing more than a diversion, designed to confuse my grandmothers into thinking they would never have a red-headed grandchild running around with their name attached.

On February 2, 1986, calls were made. A girl had been born, and her name wasn’t Kristen Suzanne. Ever humble, one grandmother was confused. “Now why would you do that?” she asked. She’d never liked her name; Annie sounded too “country” to her. Silly grandma.

For me, the name was perfect. It was this close to sounding like Anne Shirley, of Green Gables’ fame. (Though, I would like to point out, that my name is not Anne. It is, quite legally, Annie. And always has been.) And the Sue given to me as a middle name addressed my semi-Southern roots. I may not have an accent or an affinity for sweet tea and grits, but my name is double, and that trumps all.

My name alone has gotten me attention that I probably do not deserve, either because I am confused with the women who had it first, or because it sounds too unique to ignore. (If you worked for Southern Living, wouldn’t you at least glance at the résumé that belonged to an ANNIE SUE?)

More than anything, though, I am proud of my name because it has meaning.

Because the older I get, the more I see the legacy I must uphold.

My grandmothers are by far the toughest, gentlest women I know.

I love that the females in my family fit this description. I love that they are strong, independent, and determined. That they love their families, their homes, and their husbands.

Because, it is possible to be both loving and strong. Tough and tender. Opinionated and meek. I do not have to choose. My grandmothers didn’t.

It is true, I know, that my name has changed.

On paper.

Inside, though, I am just Annie Sue Butterworth.

Because, ink to paper can change.

But the heart doesn’t.

And in my heart, I am a combination of the two women for whom I’ve been named.

I couldn’t be prouder of the name I call mine.

No comments: