Some mystics believe we choose our name, along with our life's lessons, before we are born. The name we select becomes our constant guide, helping us to navigate the journey ahead. In her memoir, A Girl Named Truth, Alethea explores the subjective nature of truth while she untangles the uncomfortable wrap of narratives she was raised on. Her name serves as her beacon, guiding her to heal and find the inner voice of her own truth. The author's story begins with her formative years, when her mother left her father and went into hiding with the Hare Krishnas. Months later, the young Alethea finds herself living 3,000 miles away from her extended family, trying to love a new father and forget the one she has left behind. Only she never forgets...A Girl Named Truth is a story of loss, love and the redemptive power of awakening a silenced voice.
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MY MOTHER TOLD me she found my name, Alethea, in a book. In my child-mind I created a tome perfumed with age, adding gilded pages over the years. Sometimes I imagined stories, filled with strong and beautiful goddesses, and smiled with the thought that I was held inside pages I had never read.
“It’s Greek,” my mother told me, “for truth.”
When I opened the book inside the room of my mind, I watched the pages unfold like the wings of a butterfly, and waited for a girl named truth to manifest into form.
I never doubted the origin of my name, until one winter afternoon when I was thirty-six. That day, alone in my New Hampshire home, I cupped a phone to my ear and listened to my father’s words as he spoke from three thousand miles away inside a small ivory bungalow on the coast of Washington state.
“Did I ever tell you where your name came from?” he asked.
“No,” I said, my heart beginning to race his words. “I always thought it came from a book.”
My father’s nervous chuckle mixed with his words. “No, we got the idea from a TV show. Your mother and I used to watch a series called ‘Kung Fu’ together,” he said with another soft laugh that sounded almost like an apology. “It was popular in the 70s. There was an episode with a little girl named Alethea the year you were born.”
I scoured the drawers of the coffee table for a pencil and a pad of paper to record my father’s words, while my heart searched for a steady rhythm. This was not the same truth I had clung to all these years. The tome I had held close to my heart was beginning to disintegrate with the words of my father.
Later, after I hung up the phone, I Googled the episode my father had referenced. The words on the screen shifted me into another reality: “ ‘Kung Fu’ Alethea, 1973.” I clicked the YouTube link below the image and prepared to watch and listen.
Against a backdrop of daisies, the name Alethea appeared in orange ink, followed by Jodi Foster as a young girl plucking the strings of a mandolin atop a rocky cliff. I watched the spunky blonde actress I had always admired boldly follow the stranger she had just met, the traveling Shaolin priest Caine, played by David Carradine.
“They call me Leethe,” she told him as she extended her hand in greeting, “but my real name is Miss Alethea Patricia Abrahams.”
My mind traveled back in time thirty years to when my paternal grandmother, Grammie, used to call me Leethe.
She could almost be me, I thought as I watched Jodi Foster, if my hair had been lighter and I had been a child with courage. Here before me was a girl who seemed to live without fear, yet we both shared the burden of a name that meant “truth.” Neither of us could escape the weight of what it stood for.
Like the fictional Alethea, I struggled with the concept of truth. As a young child, if I told a lie, which was not often, I thought of my name. When I detected someone else’s lie, I thought of my name. Alethea. It was my anchor, it was my legacy, and it was my compass. Now my name was guiding me through the stormy seas of my past as I tried to redefine myself against the truths I was raised on.
I heard the words of the falsely imprisoned Caine reassure the young Alethea, “Do not condemn yourself for telling the truth,” while men outside the building banged nails into the gallows being built to hang him.
My mind swirled back into the past, remembering a childhood lived inside the shadows of secrets and truths I didn’t want to believe, before I heard Caine’s voice again, “Each step we take is built on what has gone before.” I watched as the character Alethea discovered how truth is often a matter of perception, and can be clouded by emotions and fears.
“The people of Greece have a name for truth,” Caine’s words rang clear and strong. “Alethea. Alethea is a girl who loves the truth.”
As Caine disappeared down the dusty road toward his next adventure, Alethea became a girl with light-brown hair and dark-blue eyes shadowed by distrust; a girl who created a shield of her mother’s words, blocking out her inner truth.
I thought of the stories my mother had told me of a life before I was old enough to remember it, and began to compare them to the new stories I was receiving from my father. In so many ways, they did not fit together. Now I tried to imagine my parents before my mother decided she hated my father. They must have been happy, I realized, for at least a little while.
Instead of a sad young woman with long, brown braids sitting on an old tapestried couch reading a book against her swollen belly with my one-year-old sister, Tara, clung beside her, I saw a family of three gathered on a sofa, watching a small TV perched atop a wooden crate. I even allowed my parents to touch hands and smile as they looked into each other’s eyes and shared the same thought, Alethea, we’ll name our child Alethea, if she is another girl. For truth.