By Em Ricciardi
I was named after my grandmother it’s not as special as it sounds everyone in my family is named after someone else we come in pairs two by two growing up I was not just me I was part of an us a Little to her Big I used to love our name it was uncommon to my peers I was often told I looked like our name unique our name was an identity all its own our shared self a link across generations a sign of my place in our family and in the world when I realized I was trans finding a name was a struggle I could no longer stomach her name instead of pride I felt shame to hear it but I craved that identity that connection I could have chosen another family name but they hung off my body like an unwanted dress connected to unknowns not me I am part of a pair I wanted my grandma to be part of me even if I could no longer be part of her so I stole the first syllable of her name Em I never came out to Grandma by the time I was ready she was too old her memory so spotty I would have to explain over and over every time we met her name remained as a shadow on me I stayed in the family despite their disrespect and distaste warnings to hold my tongue to not rock the fragile boat we had become I stayed for her and the memory of our connection I was desperate to hold she died at 96 in a place I could not visit at the funeral I felt relief more than grief her death released me from the family I was free from our pair free to be Em full time my grandma was a painter her home was filled with houses and seascapes and portraits I used to love staring into these other familiar worlds I received two paintings after her death a vase of pink roses on a blue sky and two cats traversing a sunny windowsill I had seen these paintings all my life in the hallway next to the kitchen but for the first time I looked at the blank spaces where she had signed her name Em two letters one syllable Em my name in my grandma’s brush strokes these paintings were older than I was older than my true existence had she somehow known? thirty years early way before even I did had she known I would be leaving her name behind? had she written our name on the paintings for me? it’s hard to describe this feeling this reintegration into one half of who I was and who I am as if fate reached forward from the past to say you will lose family and you will lose friends you will lose safety and dignity and respect but you will not lose this you came into his world as one half of a pair this is your identity you will not lose this I was named after my grandmother and I am named after a memory of her and she, in some ways, was named after me.
Em Ricciardi is a life-long lover of stories: the good, the bad, and everything in-between. Their passion extends to writing queer-focused short stories and poetry that are usually only shared among friends. They are pleased to be sharing these two poems to a wider audience. In their professional life, Em works at the Library Company of Philadelphia as a cataloger and can occasionally be found stage managing at various community theaters. When not working or attempting to write, they enjoy playing ttrpgs, watching silly internet shows, and collecting truly ridiculous amounts of Stitch memorabilia.