Imagine your Mum’s handwriting was so appalling that you were registered with the wrong name. An embarrassing one. And to get around it you create a whole fantasy existence …
By Any Other Name
by Caroline Sully
I was born at the same time we were moving house: from our crowded rented terrace in Glebe to a Federation pile on the lower north shore my Dad’s childless, widowed aunt had left to her only nephew.
From the confines of the Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Surry Hills Mum dazedly gave instructions about the move as Dad and my three older sisters thundered into the ward to congratulate a weary Mum and get their first peek at me.
I was, apparently, a red-faced squawking scrap of a thing with a mop of dark hair. My sisters, expecting a pink and white angelic infant who slept with a Mona Lisa smile on her perfect face, were disappointed and said so while Mum and Dad filled out the paperwork.
I was to be named Denise after the said departed aunt. After a heated discussion about my middle name, which made me howl even louder and brought a starchy nurse to the bedside, Mum scrawled the name Elinor down and sent the family away.
She gave the nurse the completed form for my birth certificate, and went to sleep. Job done.
Nobody thought to question Mum’s writing, which was appalling at the best of times and even worse after a long labour and a good dose of painkillers.
It wasn’t until I was five years old and starting school that we all realised the name on my birth certificate had actually been recorded as Penise.
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