Monday, November 16, 2009

The Story of My Name

Originally my name was TERRY MOAN. I was named “Terry” by my father, after a movie star of that era. “Moan” came to our family when my father's parents arrived from Norway. My grandfather's name was Peter Petersson, following the Scandanavian custom of the last name being after the father's first name, Peter. His sister would be Pettersdotter. When being processed by immigration, some anonymous bureaucrat decided that there were too many Peterssons arriving and another name should be taken. “Moan” was the name of the Norwegian village they had lived near. This cruel person led these innocent people, who didn't speak English, to take such a sad name – moan. We always pronounced it mo-en. But, of course, most would say moan, as in “a moaning sound.” My only childhood nickname was “moan & groan.”
“Terry” didn't please me. It was really a boys' name. In the second grade, when I moved to a new school, the teacher even gave me a boy's chore, thinking from my name that I was a boy. That clenched it.

Arriving in Colorado after college, I decided it was a great time to change my name. I contemplated what I wanted. It only was a shift of a letter “y” to a softer sounding “a” and “Terra” felt more like myself. “The earth,” it's meaning, grounded me and connected me more to the natural world. I liked “Terra”, both as meaning and sound. It wasn't a legal change, just for daily use.

A few years later I married Gilles Palmarini, cutie Frenchman. My name changed at the courthouse where we tied the knot-- now I was legally TERRY MOAN PALMARINI.( They wouldn't let me legally change my first name with the marriage.) 'Palmarini' originated in Italy, when one of Gilles' ancestors received palms as an honor from the Pope. “Terra” and “Palmarini” went together so nicely – I liked sounding Italian. The knot of our marriage unraveled in about 5 years. I kept the name.

When I met and decided to marry Charlie Richardson I considered keeping the name of “Palmarini” but I didn't want to be rude to Charlie. When we married, we went the common law route. I ended up later legally changing my name in court to TERRA PALMARINI RICHARDSON. I often used both last names and many people assumed that “Palmarini” was my birth name. In this way my name still had a common thread with my young son, Julien Palmarini.

So, by this time my name had morphed several times. One of my friends, a few years older than me, changed her name at 50 years old to a final, self determined form. She too had changed her name several times over a life of marriages and divorces. The idea appealed to me - to mark the stability of maturity and menopause with a name never to change again. I wondered how Charlie would react to this, when the time came.

It turned out, our marriage ended in the year of my 50th birthday. When our divorce was finalized the judge allowed me to change my name to TERRA RAFAEL. How did I choose “Rafael”? It came from talking with my Maya healing teacher from Belize, Miss Beatrice. She told me about the Archangel Rafael, who protects healers, the mentally ill, travelers, and is also the patron saint of happy marriages. Sounded like this Archangel covered several of my bases. “Rafael” translated from Hebrew means “God has healed.” I consider my name, Terra Rafael, a prayer, repeated over & over by many voices, a prayer for the healing of the Earth as well as for my personal well being.
--Terra Rafael

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