I always liked my name, growing up, because I was the only Teresa I knew. I felt sorry for the dime-a-dozen Jessicas and Jennifers and Melissas and Elizabeths, who had to go by first-name-plus-last-initial. Melissa Bee! Jenny Ess! I would have been “Teresa Pee!” so I was grateful to have avoided that.
Now, in our sparsely populated Oaxaca neighborhood, there are two other Teresas—a teenager and a middle aged woman; I fit right into the chronology. The woman who runs our little local store is named Teresa. My husband’s great-grandmother—the oldest person I have met in real life—is named Teresa. The antagonist of a currently popular telenovela is named Teresa (so I’m plagued with people breathily quoting, “Eres mala, Teresa” at me at every turn). We’re a peso a dozen, and I’m okay with that. Having spent so much of my life wanting to be different, to stand out, I’ve ended up in a place where I stand out by default, and work hard at blending in. Having a quintessential Mexican name only helps.
Oddly, a lot of the popular baby names in Mexico right now are names that were popular in the U.S. in the late seventies and early eighties, so my son is the little blue-eyed boy with the old-fashioned Spanish name (people always say, “My great-grandfather was named Isaias!”), surrounded by brown-eyed kids named Rebecca and Alison and Elizabeth and Alexander.
Anyway, it’s strange how things come around. In a different country and thirty-some years later, another wave of Jennifer Arrs and Melissa Els--that is, Jennifer Err-ay and Melissa El-ay. The name that I once appreciated for its difference, I now appreciate for its sameness.
And the one thing I didn’t used to like about my name was the supposed meaning: “helper at the harvest.” Lame, I thought, because my friends would go around saying how their names meant “beloved of God” or “beautiful flower” or “of noble birth.” Now I’m all about the idea of being a helper at the harvest, both literally and metaphorically. I can only hope that the abundance of adult Teresas running around Mexico means we’re due for a massive harvest that will require lots of helpers. A bumper crop of something wonderful for Alison Oh and Rebecca El-ay and Alexander Ah, and Isaias.