I hated my name when I was a kid. I wanted a name like my classmates; I wanted to be a Jessica, an Emily, or an Ashley... It wasn't until I was in high school that I actually started to appreciate that my name was different than most of the kids I hung around. When I was trying to come up with a name for my photography business a while back, I struggled to find the perfect one. I started out as "Photography by Alicia," then "Forever Moments by Alicia," but neither really felt right to me.
I don't exactly remember when (either in high school or my early twenties) I found out the significance of my name. My dad's side of the family has a tradition of passing down names. My dad is named after my grandpa, my uncles are each named after their uncles, and my oldest uncle is named for my great-grandpa. My parents carried on that tradition with my brother and my middle names. My brother has my grandpa and dad's first name as his middle name, while my middle name "Jeanne" comes from my Great-Aunt Jean Ellen. When I learned of my name's origin, I also learned of a very unfortunate incident in my family's past.
My grandpa was a month shy of his 9th birthday in December of 1935 when a fire consumed his home. My Great-Grandmother Florence died on Christmas Eve, my Great-Grandpa Roy lost his life a few days later... Jean Ellen survived the fire only to pass away on January 3rd, 1936 from an illness she contracted in the hospital. She was 11 years old.
My grandpa survived. He lived with his grandmother and other relatives over the years. He joined the Navy and fought in World War II, where he met Bill Green. Bill introduced my grandpa to his sister, Vesta Lea, who would become his wife and mother to his seven kids. My grandpa lived a full life, and passed away at the age of 88 in 2015.
After hearing the story of Jean Ellen and her oh so short life, I gained a new appreciation for my name, and I often wonder what she was like; was she stubborn and ambitious like my grandpa? What did she want to be when she grew up?
My aunt gave my dad an old wooden box after my grandpa died. It belonged to Jean Ellen.
It was made by my Great-Great-Grandfather George Cecil as a Christmas gift for Jean in 1934, a year before the tragic accident.
Inside the box were a few treasures that give me just a glimpse into who Jean Ellen was... old report cards from 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades.
And a cute handmade note to her mother, I'm assuming was made for Mother's Day.
I get teary-eyed thinking about everything young Jean Ellen wanted to do with her life, and how so often I find myself taking many of the opportunities I've been given in my 32 years for granted. I feel like along with my namesake I was a responsibility to live the best life I can not only for myself but for my grandpa, my great-grandparents, and Jean Ellen.
So it was decided a few years ago, that the official name of my photography business would be "Alicia Jeanne Photography" in memory of my great-aunt... and because I'm glad I'm not a Jessica, an Emily, or an Ashley now.