Call Me Elizabeth
In Elizabeth’s world, most sins are forgivable. “Only Christ keeps the score”, her pastor was known to say. You could be outright racist, maybe even KKK and Elizabeth would try to see the good in you even if all your words were counter to all she believed in. You could be a Socialist, even a Communist, and that would be OK because in your heart you were standing up for the disadvantaged, which was a core belief sewn deep into her heart. You could put down Beaufort, or the entire South, and that meant little because that only showed ignorance. You could even make up slave massacres. But there was one sin that she often joked was unforgivable. Never call me Liz, she wrote back.
In truth, some people did call her Liz and that was her own fault. When in fifth grade, one day she came home from school and went to her grandmother’s house to hang out as was her custom and her joy. “Lets bake a pie today, Elizabeth”, her grandmother offered. “I have all the ingredients for a peach pie and I know that is your favorite”.
“Call me ‘Liz’”, responded Elizabeth. I hate the name Elizabeth.
“Okay, Liz…can you get me down that cornstarch”.
The pie came out fabulous. The next day Elizabeth went back to her grandmother’s house for a slice of pie. Her grandmother, honoring her wishes, greeted her as Liz.
“Call me Betsy, Gramma”. She said.
“What happened to Liz?”
“I decided that I didn’t like it any better than Elizabeth.”
“Well Betsy, have a slice of pie and we’ll talk.”
“Do you know where you got the name Elizabeth from?”
“Well I know that was the name of your grandmother”.
“She lived through the war, you know. Lost everything. She was a brave woman”.
“What name did she go by? Back then did they even have names other than their given name”?
“That is a very interesting question. I once saw a sampler that she made with the name “Beth” on it. But I never knew her by any name other that Elizabeth.”
“So many choices I have. I can use Betty if I want. Or Betsy. Now Beth. Yesterday I thought I liked Liz and today everyone called me Liz and…I just don’t know.”
“It’s good to have a lot of choices. You will grow into the name that is right for you. For now maybe I’ll stick with Elizabeth, if you don’t mind.”
“Yes maybe I will as well”.
Whether to tease her or just out of indifference some of the kids at school kept calling her ‘Liz’. But it mostly died out by high school or certainly by college. Still every once in a while she would get and email from someone from grade school and it would call her Liz. It is as if that name was in a little box and only those with permission could open and use it. This poster had no permission.
Elizabeth checked her Facebook page again. There was another post. Sorry to call you Liz, it read. Makes me think about all the slaves in Beaufort who lived and died nameless and faceless. Where are they buried? Who thinks about them? There were probably a hundred thousand. Can you name one?