my story


I suppose you could point out that I’ve already written a book about “my story”. So what else is there to say? But I wrote Jar Half Full nearly ten years ago, in a space of mid-twenties’ growing pains. Though technically finished, it is simply a rough draft. A piece of work that I could attempt to rewrite to make it match the me who sits in this chair. I could try to add the lens and, hopefully, the emerging wisdom of a thirty-something mom. In fact, I do just that every day, sitting at my desk at five in the morning, trying to capture the very best words to explain myself. But each attempt simply speaks to this very moment and then tomorrow becomes not quite right any more.

For the sake of this purpose, a blurb for my website, I guess I’ll attempt to write a bit about my story anyway. And I might as well start at birth.

What makes my birth story any more interesting than the baby in the plastic bassinet next to me in the hospital nursery? Well, I wasn’t actually in the hospital nursery. According to my mom, the nurses forgot about me in her room so I got to spend my first hours with her and my dad. This was unheard of at the time. Growing up, I used to tell people this detail about my life as if I were birthed on Mars.

Another piece of my story that is uniquely mine is the origin of my name. My first name is Detta. And if you were taught to spell or to read phonetically, you would read that as rhyming with Jetta. But it actually rhymes with pita, like the pocket bread. This is because my mother does not know how to spell very well. My name was almost D’Etta because my great great grandmother’s middle name was Etta and my mom wanted my name to start with a D like the rest of my family. Well, except for my sister who’s name starts with an L. The story almost makes sense.

My English teacher in seventh grade informed me that she would not be calling me “D-eeta” because that is not how my name is spelled. This same woman had a laugh that sounded like duck calls and bunions on her feet. I found these traits a small retribution for her lack of kindness. Of course, now that I’m on the downhill fall towards forty, the emerging bunions on my feet make me wonder if that’s how Karma really works.

In addition to a weird first name, my last name is odd too. Willson. At first glance, you probably didn’t notice the second L. These L’s have caused great confusion for insurance companies and certificate makers over the years. Once I told the school secretary that my name was “Detta Willson, with two L’s” and she replied, “Nice to meet you Della.” I still don’t quite understand that one.

Then when I got married, I decided to let all hell break loose and I became a hyphenator. “You’ll regret it,” my husband warned. “You’ll get Carpal Tunnel from signing your name,” he added for good measure. But my inner feminist was beginning to emerge and I bristled at the idea of losing this part of my identity. So I kept Willson like an old, folded note from middle school that you can’t quite let yourself throw out.

Is having a difficult name an edifying experience? I guess. But it isn’t exactly adversarial. When people mispronounce my name, it isn’t a dismissal of my culture or an eventual death by paper cuts situation. It’s more like the bump that forms on your index finger from writing with a pen or pencil over the years. It’s there, a part of me, but mostly inconsequential.

After explaining my name, I could talk about the things that I love: Oreos, wine, hiking, sunshine, baths, the lakes in Michigan

Or the things that I loathe: Being cold, mean people, scary movies

Yet this isn’t eHarmony and I’ve already met my partner in life. But it would lead me to tell you that I met my husband on an airplane. It was a total mistake in a time of my life where I was making pretty irresponsible life choices, to make up for a good ten years of being a super-goody-two-shoes Jesus freak. And that would lead me to have to explain how I, a pretty liberal woman, once held an “Abortion is Murder” sign at a pro-life rally. You could read my book to find out. But it still wouldn’t tell the whole story.

So here I am, full circle. I’ve barely scratched the surface and am now beginning to wonder who even cares? A thousand quotes about the importance of sharing my story swirl in the lost and found section of my brain, reminding me that we are all called to speak truth into our world through whatever means we can. Painting, song, melting metal together, whatever sparks joy and you’re pretty good at. Even when our stories seem boring and inconsequential, they are the IV line through which we drip the remedy to feeling a bit less alone on this overcrowded planet.

It’s very nice to meet you. Or, if we’ve already met, I’m so glad to know you. Let’s keep trucking through life together with honesty and the bravery sharing of ourselves.