As I prepare to publish ‘The Continuing Story of the Princess and the Pea’, I’ve been asked several times what the name on the cover will be. Weird (cool. But still weird). I’ve been dreaming of this all my life. And, for the longest time, I could not come up with a pen name that felt right. I considered a grandmother’s first name, my middle name, my first name deconstructed into the two names it was created from. But none of those seemed right.
Around the same time I began, yet again, the look-out for a hair product that would make my coarse, brillo-pad hair not so frizzy. It’s always been untamed and now, pushing 40, I was beginning to think there wasn’t anything out there so I was considering chopping it all off. I took my 438,286th trip down the haircare aisle in the grocery store to see if there was something new I could try…
For many, many years, I was very self-conscious about my hair. I always felt awkward next to my beautiful friends who could go to school with their hair wet and within an hour, it would be dry, sleek and perfectly straight.
It wasn’t until I fell in love with a boy who really liked my curly hair that I began to stop feeling so insecure about it. Nearly 25 years later, when we get separated in a crowd he still looks for my enormous curly hair that on some days nearly doubles the appearance of my head.
So there I was, transfixed by the dozens of hair care products in front of me, when an epiphany struck me in the head like a frying pan. (Luckily, my enormous hair absorbed the brunt of the impact.) I have never stopped to consider WHY my hair is the way it is.
I always knew it came from my momma. I got her prominent nose too. I knew she grew up in SoCal and has an affinity for the beach. Her mother and father divorced when she was very young so she didn’t have a relationship with her dad until she was an adult. I knew he was Portuguese and I grew up hearing the stories of his parents emigrating from the Azores to the United States. But I’m ashamed to say I never, ever let it sink in until that moment in the grocery store. My hair is the way it is because I’m my mother’s daughter. My mother, my grandfather of Portuguese descent.
All this time I’ve been oblivious.
Oblivious to a very large portion of my heritage. Yes, part of that is because good relationships go bad sometimes. People make mistakes. Sometimes we completely blow it. But I should have been asking questions about these ancestors a long time ago.
My mom and dad occasionally told me about my immigrant grandparents. They settled in California. He was a shepherd. The only thing I really remembered about their story was he used to castrate boy sheep. WITH HIS TEETH. That’s pretty hardcore. And a little too much for a prepubescent girl to process. My parents thought this was hysterical and I never thought to ask for any more details.
With this new understanding, the impact of who they were has become pretty profound to me. There he was, my great-grandfather running through the fields of Northern California chasing sheep who were probably running for their lives. I imagine my grandmother was home making food for him when he came home. She probably kissed him. On. The. Mouth. to welcome him home.
But more than that, these people lived. They loved each other and they worked hard for their family in a new country. I wonder if people were kind to them and welcomed them into their new community. It is no longer lost on me that they came here for a better life, for improvement and to give their children greater opportunity. Their children, meaning my grandpa. My mother. Me.
Suddenly the echoes left by their influence are very relatable. My life, the way I’ve blended in so easily it took almost 40 years to register, is a gift given to me by people who toiled for where their posterity is today. I’ve had an overwhelming desire to discover more of their story and to find a way to honor them.
And then, it came together. My beautiful Portuguese grandfather gave the perfect suggestion. I could honor them by using my great-grandmother’s maiden name as my pen name. And so, after much consideration, the name on my book will be T.D. Sequeira. It will be there as a way to say ‘I love you too’ and ‘thank you’.
Our children love to hear us tell them stories. They laugh at their daddy’s tales of the shenanigans he and his brothers pulled. They love to hear the memories I tell them of my childhood too. And now, they will also learn about their great-great grandparents and how grandpa was a shepherd and did his best to keep the sheep population from overrunning their natural habitat. It will be great. We’ll all laugh and He-Man will unconsciously cross his legs. Because that’s part of who our children are too.
All this from a trip down the cosmetics aisle where I did actually find a new product I love, love, LOVE….and because I can’t seriously take my self seriously when taking selfies…
UPDATE 12/6/16: Disregard most of this post. After serious consideration and a good talkin’ to by He-Man and my mentor, Travis, I have decided to keep my name for my childrens books. I still want to find a way to honor my family’s name though..I’m just not sure how yet.