About Me

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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reverb10, Day 23: Middle name misfit

Prompt: New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

The author of this prompt is Becca Wilcott:
Truly, Madly, Deadly: The Unofficial True Blood Companion

My great-grandfather's notebook, begun after his arrival in New York. 

 Hello. My name is Ariana ___________ Salvo. Look odd? That's because it is. Who ever heard of not giving a child a middle name? Apparently, my parents. The fact that I had not been given a middle name was not a problem before I started school. But once I turned six, I had issues! Being an American child enrolled in a British school on a Mediterranean island made me stick out plenty. Being a Baha'i in a Greek Orthodox country did not help matters. But getting made fun of for having no middle name was an easily avoidable indignity that I was not willing to put up with. I came home from school and informed my parents that if I was going to have to live my life with a name like Ariana Salvo, instead of a pretty, normal sounding name like Crystal, Helen or Mary, the least they could do was to give me a middle name, so that people stopped saying "Ariana...what...Salvo?"

Knowing that I was not going to drop the issue, my parents sat down to consult. A few days later they came back to me with their decision: I could have a middle name, but I was to choose from one of two names that they had selected. I was, of course, very excited! Their proposal sounded fair. At last I would have three characters in my initials! My spirits fell slightly when they presented me with the two names that they had chosen: Satira, and Anora (I am not at all sure that I am spelling these correctly now....it was too long ago). I remember staring at the names in horror. These were even odder than my first and last names. My mother, always great at rounding the edges, explained to me that Satira meant star in some obscure language, and Anora meant moon. I was not impressed, but as I had no other option to choose from, I settled on Satira, which at least had a pretty meaning (I had always wanted to be called "Star" as a child).

The next day I went to school and proudly printed my new initials on all of my assignments, in place of my misfit name. I was feeling mightily pleased with myself, and was certain that life with a middle name was going to be much better than it had been without one. Unfortunately, my parents had not thought things out very well. By the end of the day, not only had I been told off by the teacher for printing "bad" words on my assignments, but the other kids had started calling me "ASS," and then bursting into fits of laughter. I returned home that night in tears, furious with my parents for the public humiliation that I had sustained as a direct result of their name choice. My parents, of course, apologized graciously, and told me that they would come up with a name that would work better as initials as well as written out in full. But the idea of going back to school the following day with a second new name was too much for me. No, I would just have to make the best of the two strange-sounding names that I already had.

Although I always hated my name growing up, as an adult I have come to love it, because it has a musical sound, and because it has a story. After traveling to Sicily to learn more about my great-grandparents, and the history of my family, the name Salvo now represents a personal connection to Sicily, and to stories of migration and embracing new cultures and ways of life. Although my first name is not really Italian or Greek (the Italian and Greek versions are Arianna, or Ariadne), it does seem inspired by both languages. The combination of a slightly culturally ambiguous first name and
a last name with Sicilian roots describes my life perfectly.

My great-grandparents' Italian passports, which they used to travel to the US
My great-grandmother's passport that she traveled on to from Italy to the US. She is holding her son, my grandmother's older brother.
My great-grandmother, on the day she was given her US citizenship
Reconnecting with family: Maria Salvo and I, in Sicily
While I was doing my undergraduate degree, my father's mother passed away. Her Italian name was Domenica, but she called herself Doris because she was embarrassed by the Italian name at a time in history when the Italian immigrant population on the east coast of the US was desperately trying to fit in. My grandmother and I were very close. She was a strong, sophisticated, sharply intelligent and stunningly beautiful woman into her 70s. She was a devout Catholic, an amazing cook, loved to take long walks along the beach, to go out to dinner and a musical in New York City, and to have friends over for meals. She had four sons, and I am her only grandchild, so the two of us were also bound together by being the only women in our family.

My grandmother's baptism certificate.
My grandmother as a young woman
My grandmother, and the many men in her life.
My grandmother's large Italian family, doing what they do best!
 My grandmother contributed generously towards my university education. She also contributed to the many tickets around the world that enabled me to experience cultures and meet people that would never otherwise have been a part of my life experiences. Unfortunately, she passed away just before I graduated from college, and therefore could not be present at my graduation. In the weeks leading up to graduation, I reflected on how I could honour her contribution to who I was, and to my education. I also wanted to do something that represented (to me) how much I loved and respected her, and how much she had taught me about what it meant to be a strong woman in today's society without losing the grace, kindness and beauty that distinguish women from men. Even though many years had gone by since I last thought about a middle name, the idea of taking on her Italian name as my middle name came to me immediately.

One of my grandmother's more glamorous moments!
My grandparents shortly after they were married.
 I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in the spring of 2001 as Ariana Domenica Salvo. Although I have not legally changed my name yet, it is clearly printed on my Bachelor's degree certificate, and I continue to use it whenever doing so does not cause legal issues. Some day I plan to change it legally.

 It has taken me a long time to fully embrace my name. If I had been asked back in high school what name I would like to be called by, I would probably have given a different name entirely. But today I cannot imagine introducing myself by any other name. It connects me to my story. To the story of my family. To the aspirations and dreams of my ancestors who got one way tickets from Italy to New York, and to my own future.

My name is Ariana Domenica Salvo. It is a pleasure to meet you!


  1. Hello Ariana! Beautiful entry! :)

    I too dont have a middle name, your family has a wonderful story, thanks for sharing!

  2. I am happy that you enjoyed this entry, Justin! No middle name, eh? But your name is so well rounded that it doesn't really need one!! :-)