Monday, March 8, 2010

My namesake, Helen

When Nate and I were still reeling from typhoid, Davis announced that Rita had given birth to a baby girl. "Wonderful!" I enthused, holding my hands out in front of me as I staggered to the car. Nate stayed a few moments longer and David continued, "We're going to name her after your wife! We called her Helen!" At this point, Nate stopped staggering behind me to the car, turned and crushed the new father's pride. "Her name isn't Helen." "Oh," Davis said. After that, it was Christmas holidays we didn't hear from him for a little while.

Everyone here calls me Ellen. Or Helen. I correct them, write my name in the sand, even type it into their phones, but it doesn't matter. I'm still Ellen. Or Helen. When we drive into Uptown, little kids yell "Ellen! Ellen!" I tried and tried to change it, but stopped trying. Now, I am Ellen (or Helen). Does it matter?

Fast forward to January, when A.B. who leads our monthly Community Beach Cleanup (if you're reading this and in Liberia, you are now expected to come out and volunteer) approached me shyly and mentioned that his wife (which doesn't mean you're married, btw, it's just nice) just had a baby. "And we're going to name her after you!" I took him aside, as I did not want this to be embarrassing. "AB, you know my name isn't Helen. It's Elizabeth." I held my breath.

AB is very smart and immediately got with the program. "Her name will be...Elizabeth," he said. I exhaled and smiled. Elizabeth, the little one, is above being held by her mother. If I look a little sketched out, remember I am not used to be around babies. Also, I was being lectured about not having learned Vai yet by the older woman on the right. You can kind of tell.

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