When I was 6 years old, I wished my name was easier like Stephanie, Sarah or Jennifer. Ca-mi-la, teachers stumbling over it during attendance. Today, looking you in the eye, I say my name for you, and you turn around and call me Camille.
Having this name shows me how hard it is to really be heard.
The legacy of having my name is that I never misspell someone else’s name. It’s the legacy of observation, of detail, of noting how the sounds used to call out to you create a problem for others. This name is about not having the luxury of carelessness.
No one says my name more beautifully than my mother; she sings it. My name is from Chile, where it’s never misspelled on my coffee cup and can always be found on souvenirs. No middle name because, as my father used to say- its strong enough on its own. What a beautiful name, he would say. Camila.
At 14 years old I start wearing my own name around my neck. I start landing in what it means to be me, informed by the choice my parents made to give me a name bearing the weight of immigrant legacy. Camila. Not Stacy or Michelle. Camila. With one L. My name with me since my first breath.
Usually I am caught off guard when someone says my name, and sometimes I hate the way it sounds in certain mouths, the name-sayer not worthy of my letters. I rarely correct an incorrect accent, because it’s not something I wish to gift.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it sounds almost as beautiful as when my mother says it. Like when Lola says it.
I love it when Lola says my name.
I love it when Lola calls to me, the way she forms my letters in her mouth. It sounds like love, coming from her lips. Like seeing, feeling, mouthing all that this name holds. Camila, she says. Camila, I love you, Lola says. The way she holds my vowels, acknowledging all that I have been and all that I can be. We grow together and learn each other’s names. At 28, I start wearing her name around my neck.
She started saying my name years ago, Camila, with hope and vision. Camila, with exhaustion and distraction as time passes and days collect. Camila slipping away from her. And then she stops saying my name. Camila as a goodbye, Camila as grief, as an end, as winter, as rain. At 32, I break my Lola necklace in desperation. I pull it off my neck as the delicate links of the chain pull and come apart in my hands.
Camila as sleepless nights, as tears, as loneliness. As alone, as I always was, as I will always be. Camila as legacy of strength and loss, of art and growth. Camila as mine and mine alone.
I start to release the tightness. Release my chest, breathing in and naming the things I see in the room. Name the colors, orange, yellow, red, name the textures, wool, soft, hard. Camila as she breaths in, cries, Camila as letting go.
Camila as time.
And then, my name as Spring, on her lips again. My name as legacy of forgiveness and love. Forming my name once again as possibility, as family, as what could be, as what was, as what is, as beauty. I love all the ways that Lola says my name.
At 33, I put my own name back around my neck, and land in this body and in this moment.
Camila as I am, as I will always be.