The Things That Define Me Alexandra Bettez

My Name

In Greek, my name means “defender of the people.” Although, my parents weren’t cruising websites for baby names. To be honest, my mother decided on my name because she “liked the sound of it.” She knew that she wanted my middle name to be Diolinda (pronounced duh-linda); my great-grandmother’s name. Never in my life have I heard someone named Diolinda. “Is that even a real name?” I’ll ask jokingly. From what I’ve heard in stories, she was a strong-willed, independent woman who never, ever did anything she didn’t want to. Diolinda was a one-of-a-kind woman, just like her name. I may not be as stubborn as she was, but I do want to be one-of-a-kind. Alexandra seems to flow side by side with Diolinda, like a waterfall out of your mouth, and it is pretty cool not to have a cookie-cutter name.

My great-grandmother, Diolinda. "Vova" to me, "Linda" to most

Alexandra isn’t a bad name, and I’ve never gone through a phase when I hated it, but I’ve always felt a little awkward introducing myself. My four-syllable-long name seems to take so much longer to say: Alexandra doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It's a formal name; a name you should only use if you're at a black-tie event. When I was in elementary school, I went by my full name; I never seemed to catch on to the fact that most people with my name choose a nickname, like Alexa or Lexie. Alexandra is their secret name, the name that you only see on official documents or rosters. When a teacher calls attendance for the first time, they always ask if I want them to call me something else. When I came to high school, I initially introduced myself as Alex, instead of Alexandra. Now, it’s interesting because my old friends from grade school all call me Alexandra still, but my new friends from high school call me Alex. The two names are so alike, but they feel different. Alexandra is too long, too strict, too uptight. Alex is freer and shorter and sweeter. I think it fits me better, like the puzzle piece that you’ve been missing, but it’s under your elbow.

Some of my favorite moments

My First Room

Even though I currently have one room to call my own, I feel as though I have two rooms to call mine. When I was the youngest, my room was the smallest in the house, but I was proud to call it my own. The wall facing my small, twin-sized, fish-quilted bed was a beautiful mural completed with talented brushstrokes, vibrant colors, and a hopeful sky. How many other kids did I know with murals on their walls? Not many, to be honest. To top it all off, there was a real, wooden white fence along the walls, making my beach paradise seem like it was only an arm’s length away. The mural was the last thing I saw as I fell asleep, and the first thing I saw when I woke up. The endless detail kept me mesmerized, even after I had studied it all. Without a doubt, I can paint the entire thing by heart, even today.

My house was the perfect size for a family of five: my two sisters, my parents, and me. Everything changed when my little brother came along. The bosses decided to add on to the house, to make room. In the aftermath, I packed my bags and moved to the room next door. My brother inherited my first room, which makes me happy because I love him, but jealous because I miss the little room I once called mine. Although my new room is bigger, there is no ocean on the wall. No sailboats greet me in the morning. No sunny beach reminds me of summer even in the coldest of winters. The room is bigger, but emptier. Sometimes, when nobody is around, I sneak into my old room, and trace the outline of the lighthouse with my finger.


Hugs That Smell Like Flowers

Vina is not my grandmother, but she might as well be. When my little brother was born and my parents needed help to take care of him between their full-time jobs, a friend of a friend recommended Vina as a babysitter. 11 years later, she is my third grandmother, coming in and checking on us, making us banana bread on our birthdays. We greet and goodbye with a big hug, and she is warm and soft, like how you feel waking up in your cozy bed on a frigid winter morning. Wrapped in her embrace, I smell flowery perfume, the kind that all old ladies seem to have. A hug from her is never complete without a big kiss on the cheek, which leaves a sticky residue of love on my skin. It is these hugs that I know I will remember the most about Vina, for years to come.

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