My parents were divorced when I was in fifth grade. Prior to that, I don’t remember them ever showing any signs of physical affection or emotional support for one another. The history of my name is inextricably tied to the hostility between my mother and father. The story goes that my parents, who could never agree on anything, made a deal with each other that she would name the first child, and he would name the second. My brother, who was born four years before me, is named Edward Matthew for my maternal and paternal grandfathers respectively. When my family gets together, people from both sides always discuss and debate with pride which attributes he shares with each of the two great men.
However, Lynne Marie is not a name that appears on any branch of my family tree. Lynne is an uncommon spelling of an uncommon name and was always a major source of anxiety during my childhood; I could never buy a license plate with my name on it for my bike without adding an E in magic marker, and I never had a namesake song like my friends Maggie, Beth, and Sue. For my 13th birthday I received a decorative plaque explaining that my name is derived from an Old English word meaning “beautiful waterfall.” When I asked my mother why my father chose to name me Lynne Marie, I was picturing a waterfall nestled in the English countryside, with a peasant woman reading a book beside it, every few minutes she would lift her eyes from the pages to admire the calm and beauty of the clean cascading water. My mother interrupted my daydream when she turned to me and with ample bitterness told me that my father wouldn’t tell her where he got the name from, and that I was probably named after one of his ex-girlfriends or mistresses.