A Bedtime Story pt 1
My mother named me Cassia. While she did not agree with the hypocrisy that is often incorporated with the practices of various churches, she firmly believed in the Old Testament. She loved the story of feminine equality that is behind the second daughter of Job, Keziah, but Keziah was a bit too eccentric a name for her taste. She decided on naming me after the word that Keziah comes from; cassia. It is the Hebrew name for a relative spice of cinnamon that grows in India, China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
One night when I was eight, I ventured up to her to ask her why she chose Cassia. She was sitting on the screened-in porch, curled up on the swing. The moonlight soaking into her face was a stark contrast to the dark silhouette her body made. She was gazing out at the sterile facsimiles that were the suburban homes lining our street.
My mother’s name is Desdemona, but everyone calls her Desi. My grandmother had always been a fan of Shakespeare, and she knew the minute she discovered the name “Desdemona”, that was what her daughter’s name would be. The irony of how my mother’s and my own name came to be was never lost on me. Both were born from an obsession with some sort of ancient literature.
Hurricane Katrina had swallowed up her art studio in New Orleans, where I was born, so we were forced to move to the upper east coast, where Nana and Pop (my mother’s parents) lived. We had lived with them for three weeks while Mom had gotten a job right away as the head curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The two of us moved to an apartment near Fairview Park, but we often spent weekends at Nana and Pop’s enchanting little townhouse in Center City.
That is where we were the night I crawled up next to her on the porch swing and asked her where she got my name.
“I thought I told you that story already”.
“No Mom; you’ve only told me about your name. I want to hear about mine”.
“I haven’t told that story in ages. All right, then. Get comfortable, because this is a rather long one”.
Mom smiled as I scooted down to borough my head in her lap. She wrapped her arm around me and said:
“Well, I can’t tell you about the story of your name without first telling you the story of my ancestors. I have not told you that story, have I?”
“No, but I would love to hear it. I know you mentioned that we are linked to English royalty before, but you never told me much more than that”.
My mother’s bloodline starts with a group of women who would meet after church every Sunday in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Women were not allowed to speak in church, according to Puritanical rules, so they had to meet in female-only groups afterwards. One of those women was Sarah Bradford, the wife of Joseph Bradford. Joseph’s father, William Bradford, apparently was the founder of America’s first Thanksgiving. Bradford was the most perfect example of a leader that ever there was in the brand new settlement of Plymouth. His wife, unfortunately, did not get the chance to see just what an amazing man her husband was, and the cause of her death is still debated to this day.