A client gave me a gardenia the other day. I love gardenias. They are so beautiful! Their scent, the thick white petals, the copious amount of blossoms on the bush… just lovely. I kept the flower next to me until it turned into a smooshed brown mass of deadness that no longer smelled sweet before throwing it out. Until then, though, I had to have smelled it a hundred or more times a day.
There was a time I was going to change my name to gardenia… lowercase g, no last name. I actually went by gardenia for about three years, determined to legally change my name once I’d finished midwifery school in 2002. I did worry about the difficulties of having only one name, telling people only a lowercase g and no last name, but I just loved gardenia so much it seemed worth it to me.
I hated my Barbara name in English. It was so old. Barbra. Ugh. Just so old sounding. I was named for my Nana, who I loved and who my mom adored and I knew if I changed my name it would break my mom’s heart, but I just really hated my name. And my middle name was even worse! Ellen. Blech! Now, Barbara in Spanish… that was nice. Savage. I liked that alright. But it didn’t have the same connotation in English. In English it meant old lady.
So, I was in midwifery school in El Paso, Texas where I spoke Spanish 99% of the time, even dreamt in Spanish, and was gardenia this and gardenia that. During one long labor, an older abuela took me aside and asked me if I knew what the gardenia was in Mexico and I said I didn’t. She whispered that it was the Mexican flower of death and I was mortified. What was I to do?
There really wasn’t anything to do but go back to Barbara which, suddenly didn’t sound so bad after all. Bárbara, the feral midwife… could I live with that? Better than gardenia, the midwife of death, right?
After that night, I never looked back and have always been Barbara… or rather, Barb. And as much as I didn’t like it before, I love it now!
Maybe I just needed to grow into it.