Tuesday, January 25, 2011

History in a Hand-Me-Down

When you hear the word 'hand-me-down' you probably think of the poor kids wearing their elder brother or sister's worn out tennis shoes or patched jeans, and maybe a jacket that doesn't quite fit, but will have to do. I never wore hand-me-downs. My brother and I did, however, wear sweat suits (in every color) that were 3 sizes too big, in the hopes that by being thrifty, we could save a little money and we would have room to "grow into them." Apparently mom thought we were going to be husky size at some point because I have sweat shirts I got for Christmas in the third grade that could still fit two or three people in.

But I'm a little off topic. Hand me downs. The hand-me-downs I inherited came in the form of my many names. Being from the south, generally when I introduce myself with my double name, people may pause at the Scarlett, but when I say "it's a family name" they nod in complete understanding and move along. Family names, in the south... it's what we do.

My first name, Audrey, comes from my paternal grandmother. I never met my father's parents. They died in the 60's, yet my dads heart is in his voice whenever he talks about my grandmother, so I know she was pretty special. It's her name that I carry at the beginning. From everything I've heard of her over the years, I know she was a salt of the earth kind of person (my favorite kind). She was honest, hardworking, and well thought of. She helped the family out by not only raising two sons, but by taking on several odd jobs. During the summer she dug worms to sell as bait, and sent my daddy around to all the fish camps in the area to sell for a little extra money. She helped run my granddaddy's motel, "Jug's Tourist Court", and she was also the post mistress of Emerson, Georgia. This was back when the trains still helped deliver mail from town to town. Dad still talks about the times when he was a kid and the train's conductor hadn't extended the mail hook all the way and it would knock the mail bag off the platform and strewed the contents up and down the rail tracks, and daddy and my uncle Fred would have to run up and down picking up the letters and whatnot, and meet the train in Cartersville to get them the mail.
She was a woman of many talents. From what dad says, she could cook a biscuit in her sleep, and she had the greenest thumb of anybody he ever met. No, I never met my grandmother Audrey, but I am honored to carry on her name.

Anne, with an "e", is my mother's middle name, her mother's first name, and the first name of my middle name...confused yet? I assume most people must spell it as Ann, because there have been countless times, where people will read off my name and say Annie. I don't get it, but there it is. Several years ago, when my mom was reapplying for her passport, she realized (for the first time), that there was a typo on her birth certificate and the "e" had been omitted. When she asked my grandmother about it, my dear ole granny (she would kill me if she heard me call her that, so it will be our little secret okay?) said that, yes she knew about it, and had always meant to have it fixed, but never did get around to it...my mom nearly had an identity crisis. That, in a nutshell, tells you a little bit about my grandmother, and my mama.

Lastly I have Scarlett, a family name from my maternal grandfather's side of the family, and the name that most people hear and then feel the need to start quoting Gone With the Wind, which used to bug me to no end, but now I just sorta smile and nod. Or they mishear me, and call me Carla. Although all my names are family names Scarlett is the one that generally takes an explanation. I've finally gotten over the need to explain it every time somebody says "oh your mom must have loved Gone With the Wind." Well, I'm sure she does, but that's not where that name came from. Long story, long, circa 1799, Francis M. Scarlett, my 4X's Great-Grandfather lived in Middlesex, England, and was caught by his teacher drawing satirical cartoons of said teacher, he was punished, and this punishment apparently prompted young Francis to run away from home. He stowed away on a ship bound for America, but he had no sooner disembarked in the port of Savannah, than one of his father's business acquaintances recognized him and set him packing right back to his father. He jumped on the very next ship that he could, back to the coast of Georgia, where he settled in Brunswick, married a prominent local planter's daughter and created Oak Grove Plantation at Fancy Bluff. Francis and Ann (without the "e") Scarlett had 11 children that survived childhood. In my particular branch of the Scarlett family, the name ceased to exist as a surname when my 2x Great-Grandmother Annie Bell Scarlett (Francis Scarlett's granddaughter) married a Hilsman. "Minnie" as the family called her, had 12 bothers and sisters, so the the last name has survived in other branches of the family. In the past few generations, my branch started using it as a first and middle name. I have a great-aunt, a 1st cousin once removed, a second cousin, and an aunt who all carry on the name Scarlett. There is a family story about the name Scarlett being used in Margaret Mitchell's novel. Shortly after GWTW was published, a sister of Annie Bell wrote to Margaret Mitchell, praising the book, but asking why Ms. Mitchell felt the need to name "that hussy" Scarlett. M.M. wrote back, explaining that she meant no harm or disrespect in naming her headstrong, and narcissistic heroine after one of coastal Georgia's "most prominent families," and that she was aware of our family's history, but felt the name was the perfect fit for her character. I can't disagree, even if it means I will forever after introduce myself, and within a heartbeat hear, "but Miz Scarlett, I don't know nothin' bout birthin' no babies... I bet you hear that a lot don't you?" Well, yes actually, I do. But I wouldn't change it for the world.

So there it is. A family history lesson taught by the handful of hand-me-down names that I received upon birth, have a heck of a time fitting on any form that requires me to write my name, and tells so much about me and my people that I just had to share.

Audrey Anne-Scarlett Marrow (née Irwin)

1 comment:

  1. My mom's name on her birth certificate is Kellie but on her license is Kelli. Jeff's name on his birth certificate is Jeffrey but his license says Jeffery. I think that's a fairly common problem. People at the DMV need to learn to type!!!