In defense of Princess Leia

The following is a first draft I plan on submitting for consideration in a journal of Star Wars cultural impact–What do you think?

My daughter’s name really is Leia.  People always hesitate: “Leah?” they say.  “No,” I say, just that right amount of polite and forceful. “Lay-ya.  Just like Princess Leia in Star Wars.”  I let it sink in, and then I smile in huge hopes that this person in this instance will show even an inkling of humor.  This person, a Barbara or Elizabeth or Melissa, never has a problem buying a key chain with her name on it.  She also invariably responds by looking down her nose and admitting that she has never seen it.  Living in the Midwest, there is sometimes a strange and stubborn refusal to enjoy anything too much, and naming a child after a movie character—why, that’s plain frivolous.

Maybe I’m exaggerating.  Perhaps I’m projecting my own thoughts in explanation to the various responses I’ve seen.  Perhaps the aforementioned Barbara secretly rolls her hair in buns to cover her ears and then proceeds to scold her man with that perfect touch of bitch and sex.  Barbara might even think Leia is the best name she has ever heard, and the raised brow is really her Midwestern enthusiasm.  And right now, I really sympathize with Barbara’s mother, and the terrible weight and anxiety that is part of choosing a name for a creature you do not know, a person with infinite possibilities.  I don’t want to say that Barbara’s mother chose poorly.  I don’t want to offend the numerous Barbaras out there that are perfectly lovely people.

Names are heavy things.  When pregnant, I felt this terrible burden to make the RIGHT decision, nothing too pretentious—and here I’ll be listing names that probably belong to some reader who thinks Leia is the worst name ever, and I’m sure I will offend by passing judgment on her particular name, but then, that is why names are so difficult to choose—like ‘Charity’ or ‘Grace.’  After all, with my genes, how likely would it be that my offspring would actually possess those traits?  It always struck me that the irony of choosing those heavy names left the child little choice but to rebel against any insistence to be like said quality.

What if I chose a name with NO weight, like ‘Jillian’ or ‘Jessica,’ names that some mother somewhere else had agonized over, hoping to achieve the perfect balance between stolid and reliable without being generic?  But then there are millions of women named Jessica alive today; I have a cousin named Jessica.

There lies the crux: names become entangled in our associations.  My cousin would enjoy a distant relation that shared her name, but the honor implies a depth in a relationship that doesn’t really exist.  I like her well enough.  I like candy bars, too.  I didn’t name my daughter Baby Ruth.

A good friend of mine travels frequently to Kenya, visiting her adopted son’s community.  On one such occasion, her arrival marked the auspicious birth of a calf.  She laughs a little, but she is honored because they chose to name the cow for her.  A cow has value; it means food, prosperity, comfort.  And strangely, my association with her has changed how I feel about her name.

Unfortunately, as a middle-school teacher, hundreds of perfectly good names are ruined forever by booger-picking, slobbering, snorting, farting gems that belong to some other mother.  Amanda was out, thanks in large part to the name-sake who had the uncomfortable habit of chewing on the corner of her papers; Miranda had a tendency to flutter her lashes at every male student; Christina screamed at me at least twice a day because I was ‘picking’ on her.  Yes, being a teacher crossed many names off my list.

So why Leia?  Why choose the name of a fictional character from the largest blockbuster ever made?  Maybe because when I was a little girl, I secretly dreamed of being a woman who could say, “Someone get this walking carpet outa’ my way?”  I wanted to be a woman who had the courage to rescue herself from evil servants of the Dark Side.  She was a woman admired by both men and women in the audience.  Leia would never stay in an abusive relationship.  Leia would never stand for sexual harassment on the job.  Leia could change her own oil and fix her own flat.  I wanted that for my daughter.

It definitely crossed my mind that I might be opening my daughter up to ridicule.  But I also knew from first-hand experience that there is no saving my child entirely from that.  Middle-school and life are full of jerks.  If for just those few moments my daughter could remember that she was named for a women of honor and power, perhaps then she would have the courage to face her own Storm Troopers.

            By the way, my daughter’s middle name is Presley… but that’s a whole other story

My Aha Moment

I have been a teacher now for five years and feel I’ve crossed a milestone professionally.  Last summer, in large part due to my class blog, I was contacted by Mutual of Omaha’s Aha Moment campaign.  I was both thrilled and honored, especially because I realized the contact was made because I attempted to use technology to engage my students.  I really had to gather my thoughts to articulate the honor I feel about influencing young minds.  I loved that even a year later, I couldn’t disagree with a single sentiment expressed in the video.  Now if you choose to follow the link below and watch the short video, I highly encourage you to watch other, far more inspirational videos–then script out what you would say!

http://ahamoment.com/moments/1191

On another note, I do keep a class blog for my students and parents.  My district is reconstructing technology so that e-items like blogs are on a supported platform, so I apologize for the ‘under-construction’ vibe currently.  But feel free to visit: http://pameticky.blogspot.com

Free Write

The beauty part of exploring my poetry recently in an effort to clarify some common thread/theme/tone is that I’ve stumbled upon things I wrote and forgot about.  Forgetting is often a blessing–it’s good to get rid of crap and keep moving forward.  But sometimes I read something I actually LIKE.  Huh.

Two Fathers and a Birthday

His reaction was instant,
the flush sweeping up his face—
I imagine the tiny capillaries bursting from the force.
His hands balled fists,
the nails digging dried and dead cells from the centers of his palms.

Causal Relationship I
A kick, lashing out, not even from the hip, just the knee,
as if tapped by a reflex hammer,
sweeping the feet out from under the tiny body
that slammed into the floor,
the air compressed from lungs
so that the ragged cry was delayed.

Causal Relationship II
At four he should’ve known better,
but daddy pointed and smiled
and it seemed so funny just to haul back and hit that guy in the balls,
the guy who was teasing him,
and daddy didn’t like him anyway,
so that’s just what he did,
just hauled back like a pitcher on the mound,
let his fist go like a rock flying from a sling shot.

Causal Relationship III
Her chubby fists clutched at his ears, a tree-monkey,
and he had both hands full of her knees so that she wouldn’t go
tilting backwards.  She felt safe,
which was all that really mattered.
He teased the four-year-old who had picked
on his daughter, calling him four-year-old names like
pooper-scooper, and dookie-head.
He didn’t see the fist coming.

Causal Relationship IV
The sling-shot fist was rewarded with a high-five,
while tree-monkey daddy struggled NOT to buckle,
his face a Dali.

I sat on the couch, considering another piece of cake,
mildly concerned that the 55 gallon fish tank
might be the real ‘victim’ in all of this if it didn’t survive,
and I couldn’t wait for the whole slew to get the
hell out of my house.

The issue with attempting to put together a ‘collection’ is that typically a ‘collection’ implies that the writer was collecting something, a common idea, a common thread.  I would LOVE input to help clarify and much of my writing is already online via Free Write at http://aspameticky.wordpress.com  Feel free to weigh in my errors of conceit.

The Aesthetic

April PametickyHonestly and realistically, I have an eclectic sense of taste and space.  Expect to see Young Adult reads mixed in with Poetry and Romance (I will be sure to specify the difference *wink), links to my favorite sites travelling on the web, and excerpts from my own writing.  I will limit pontification as much as possible, and I’ll make every effort to keep my sense of humor in tact.  I hope to be at least moderately entertaining, and while I may make a sales pitch or two, I will warn you before hand.

Chances are, if you’ve found your way here, then you already know a little something about me.  But for those accidentally stumbling by, I am a writer, a teacher, a mom,  and a poet, not necessarily in that order.  I am an expert at none of these things.