Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Presenting...Giacomina!

Italians have trouble with my name. This doesn't surprise me. The name Jackie doesn't have much in common with any Italian names I know, and the closest Antonello and I have ever gotten to comparing it to something Italian is the name Giacomina, the very uncommon feminine form of Giacomo. Anyway, apparently when Italians hear that my name in their language is Giacomina, they laugh. Hard. So I, not wanting to be the subject of ALL of their jokes, stick with Jackie.

In many senses, Jackie is easy to remember. People immediately conjure up the image of other famous Jackies: specifically Jackie Kennedy and...Jackie Chan. Hey, whatever works. Still, while the name is memorable for some, others have a tougher time. Antonello's Grandma Ida, for instance, can't seem to remember Jackie at all. She doesn't know that's my name, despite my numerous attempts at correcting her. Instead, she refers to me as Jessie, and when people talk about Jackie, she must be thinking, "who is this Jackie girl people keep referring to?" So, at all family functions, I'm Jessie. It seems to be sticking among Antonello's other family as well (Nonna Ida has an excuse--she's 92. Others in his family don't). Jessie the American. Great. In turn, I try to purposefully pronounce their names wrong as often as I can, claiming simply, "It's too difficult to pronounce in English."

But now, as I've been living in Italy on an ongoing basis for almost two years, I'd assume that this problem would have solved itself. Indeed it has, in many situations. Friends never mess up my name, and people have come to accept that 'Jackie' is a typical American name, even if it isn't Italian at all. But, this doesn't mean anyone knows how to spell it.

I didn't think much of it until recently, since returning back from our wedding and honeymoon in the states. Among the stacks of bills and a few notes from friends, we found an invitation to two of our caving friends' wedding. Daniele and Milena had taken the introductory caving course a year back and had become fast friends with us cavers. They are great people, and Antonello and I had already been informed that their wedding was coming up. I happily took the invite to open it, but before I could, I noticed who it was addressed to. There, written out formally were our names: Antonello Compagnucci and...Yeky. I was shocked. Who is this Yeky person? Did she live here too? Or he? And since when? An old tenant perhaps? And then I paused, stepped back and sighed. Yeky was me.

And that's not all. I noticed it again at our friends Giampaolo and Luciana's house, as we put money into the wedding fund for Daniele and Milena. I was on the list to contribute, but it wasn't really me. It was Jaky. How is it that Italians can use every letter that does not exist in Italian and compose someone else's name with it? I almost didn't contribute, claiming that they should ask Jaky for the money, not me. Sigh. First Yeky, now Jaky. What next?

Next, apparently, was Jeky. And this time, at the photography store where we were developing our prints from our recent honeymoon, I almost got angry. As the woman asked my name, I said clearly "Jackie" and before I could spell it out for her, she had scribbled Jeky across the page, claiming, "Even if it's not spelled write, it's easy for us to remember this way." I felt like asking her name and spelling it wrong in front of her, but instead, I steamed, turned, and quietly left the shop, walking home with the continuous thought, "maybe I should go by Giacomina after all."

Two days later, I went back into the film store to pick up my developed rolls. A younger girl was there, not the woman who dubbed me "Jeky" and she started to fill out a discount card for me (10 rolls of film developed meant a free enlargement). First, she asked my name, and since I wasn't yet ready to announce my change to Giacomina, I said, "Give it to me. I'll write it out." And I wrote out Jackie, pronouncing it for her. She smiled, nodded, and handed me my developed film. And that was that.

Until the next day, when I had more rolls to be developed, and I stopped back in. The younger girl was still working, and I handed her my rolls of film, expecting her to take them, write out "Jeky" and send me on my way. But instead, she asked my name. When I responded "Jackie," and was about to take the pen and write the name out for her, she scribbled letters across the envelope. I thought, "Great, another version of Jackie. What could it be this time? Giaki? Jachi? Yaki?" But instead, written across the yellow developing envelope was the word Jackie. My name. Written by an Italian. She remembered. I could have hugged her.

I didn't though. I smiled, said "that's a first!" and I left the store. I was back to being Jackie again. There was hope in Italy after all.

-Jackie (or Yeky)

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