Gretchen the Child
Red hair, pigtails, freckles. What says Dutch Girl more than that? My name, of course. Gretchen Grossman. “That’s a terrible name, we’ll call her by her middle name,” my uncle said. So my mother didn’t give me one. Is there something in a name? Does it have a hand in developing personality? I think yes. I always had a need to stand strong, be rooted deep into the earth with a name that stood atop, not swaying in the breeze, not cracking in a storm. Just strong. No light feminine lilt in saying it aloud. No easy vowel sound to bring up the rear. Clunk. The name just stood there. Like a statement. Like a declarative sentence. No prose. No poetry. The name was a fortress.
That’s a five-year-old Cinderella, ready for her fairy godmother, her pumpkin coach, her prince, the magic. No one told her fairytales were fleeting. Should she have known? When do children have an inkling that there’s reality, and then there’s fantasy? At what age do the psychologists say that concept is formed? The Catholic Church says children reach the Age of Reason by seven. I had two more years then, to daydream about being a singular princess.
First Communion. There were a lot of classroom preparations prior to this happy day. There were prayers to memorize. Sins to acknowledge. Confessions to the priest, with his small penance and his blessing to do better the next time. Two Sacraments. The Eucharist and Penance. Reaching the Age of Reason brought the responsibility of ownership for all the actions and choices I’d make. Daydreams got cast aside as worthless. It was time to knuckle down to the serious business of saving my soul.