The green fox

Last month, I met a green fox in a magical place. When the fox asked my name, I told him “Jessie”.

“What’s your middle name?” the fox wanted to know.

I’ve always struggled with the name that I give myself.

Growing up, I didn’t like to use my last name, because I wanted distance from my dad. For all of his positive qualities, he was not equipped to be a very good father, and I didn’t want his name or anything else from him.

In my early teens I played with all kinds of adopted names — first and last names. I tried them on like clothes, testing them out, and then discarding them. Nothing fit right. I stuck with Jessie. (I was never Jessica, that has far too many syllables!)

Later in my teens, my friends gave me another name. It fit really well; I loved it. I embraced this name, and added it to my first. I liked having two names again. I liked being Jessie Cat.

This name served me so well over the years. But lately, the fit hasn’t been quite right, and it hasn’t felt comfortable on my tongue.

In the meantime, my relationship with my father has changed too. It’s taken a lot of work from both of us, but we’ve made positive change. Altho he wasn’t able to be a great dad to me when I was a child, he’s been able to become a great friend to me as an adult. I stopped feeling allergic to the name Kelley.

I even started using it publicly… updated some account names, added it here and there. When I earned my editor accreditation last year, it felt like the right name to add my postnominals to: I became Jess Kelley AE. (Not Jessie Kelley, that has far too many ‘ii’ sounds!)

But I can’t be Jess Kelley in every setting. Jess is, paradoxically, both more distant, and more intimate. For most occasions, Jessie still fits me best.

“What’s your middle name?” the fox wanted to know.

Most people don’t ask that question. But foxes aren’t people.

“Jane,” I said.

“Jessie Jane!” the fox laughed, “What a great name!”

It took me so long to accept my real name. It took a green fox in a magical place to ask the right question to remind me of who I am.

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Jessie JaneComment