Like any good writer, my name is a nom de plume. A pseudonym. A falsity. But it isn’t a lark.
I am not one that hides behind it. I give my real name freely, Jessi-Lyn Curry. What my working name really is is an honourific to all the matriarchs in my family that have instilled great values and influences into my life and writing.
Mathilda is my mother’s mother. Born of German parents in Little Falls, MN, Mathilda _ _ Blekinger was actually the third of her name. Two of her sisters had passed away before her, each before the other had been born, and each given the name of Mathilda. The four brothers she had all survived infancy into adulthood. I remember very clearly her telling me in one of her more lucid moments near the end, “I don’t know what is so great about the name Mathilda.” Personally, I think it is a wonderful name. We called her Tillie, I call myself Matty-Anne. I love the actress Tilda Swenson, another Mathilda.
Anne is a very common name and comes from several branches of the family tree. She was an Aunt on my father’s side, as well as his mother; a great-grandmother by mother’s father’s mother, and as far as I can believe a great-aunt as sister to my mother’s father. Again, it is a common name. And of all of these Annes, father’s mother included, they were all dead by the time I was born. I have a photo of grandma Anne holding my brother as an infant, with stories of cigar smoking and bourbon drinking. She was born to Londoners, in French-Canada, and escaped to the bayou in Louisiana where dad was born. Of all of the Anne’s my mother’s father’s mother’s is the most interesting. Joseph married a 16 year old Anne whilst in his forties and beget 13 children on her. I have all of their names around here somewhere. Cool names. Old names that I would love to name non-existent children one day like Clarence, Barnard, Florence, and Gertrude. I believe there was an Anna and a Stella in there too. They were farmers in rural Minnesota. I have super-old black and whites of their marriage and her milking a cow. Her story continues in a second.
The full extension of my name is Mathilda-Anne Elizabeth Florence. In real life I no longer have a middle name. Lyn was my middle name until I hyphenated it, myself, in grade 5. I had a horrible bowl cut, big eighties glasses and a duck tail (don’t judge me, I can do that well enough myself, thank you), and I looked like a boy. In fact, when I was born, my mother had to have my ears pierced because everyone thought I was a boy with the name Jessi. So, by hyphenating it I claimed my femaleness and stuck up my fist at a very early age to the system. I still am, but that’s another story.
Elizabeth is now my middle name, but I don’t usually put it in publication. Elizabeth was my mother’s mother’s mother. She married John the Bastard, the German. Not a nice guy from what the old stories tell of him. Elizabeth was also my mother’s three-quarter sister’s name, named after her own mother. Follow me here…Grandma Tillie married Vincent (Great-Grandma Anne’s third eldest son) and had Aunt Betty, divorced and married his brother Barnard (grandpa, Great-Grandma Anne’s fifth eldest son) and had mom and 2 boys. Therefore, more than half, but not quite a whole sister…three quarters. Right? Right. Guess what, this isn’t the weirdest wife/husband exchange in my lineage as of yet. Keep reading.
Are you confused yet? I am. I had to rewrite this a few times thinking Elizabeth was Anne and Anne was Elizabeth, in the mom’s parents relation at least.
Okay, so Florence! Not the Florence already mentioned…mother’s father’s sister. For a long time I had a really hard time trying to pick a last name. I made one up…I can’t even remember it now. Then Tillie died. This was about 10 years ago now. (She was 93, and still had all her German red hair. Yay genetics!! I’m never going grey.) All I had left in the grandparent department at that time was my step-father’s parents. His mother and step-father (step-step-grandfather?). Her name is Florence, we call her Flo. It came to me in one of those weird Aha moments. I asked her permission to use her first name as my writing last name. She said sure, “now get published, damnit!” A few years ago, her husband Dave passed away, at one hundred and two, and three days. Technically she is the last of my grandparents alive, and as of last year, the last of all of my family from that generation. She is our matriarch. She thinks of my mother as her daughter and me as her closest granddaughter. She deserves respect and never has to demand it. She is 100% Italian with a small-town, Canadian upbringing. And damnit, I’m going to get properly published while she can still appreciate it and read it.
So, that is my full name and background. And about that inter-marriaging thing? So, John the Bastard lost Elizabeth, and Anne lost Joseph. They both lived within a mile of each other. John needed a woman to take care of the place and married Anne. This is AFTER Tillie married Vincent and had Betty. There was rumour that they then had a small brood of their own, but I doubt it. Most say she just walked out one day and went back to her house she had had with Joseph and kept with raising the kids she still had left. He earned the name Bastard fair and square. Nobody liked him.
Over the years, learning the stories of all the women in my family has given me a great appreciation for where I came from and what has made me Me. I am proud to be German, Polish, English-Canadian, and Scottish. I have warring factors on all sides, yet I get along great with myself. Plus, nearly all the men are dead now, and the women don’t look to be losing any ground soon. My tribe is strong. I honour them, I respect them.
**pictured above is me, looking at the camera at a few months old, mom looking at me, and her mom, Mathilda “Tillie”, looking at her. Mom has gone more dirty blonde, whilst I have gone the German auburn of my ancestors. Tillie had a touch of white at her temples and a full head of red hair in the end. I can’t wait to get old if I look anything like either of them!!