Unexpected Kindness

Today I had to go to AAA (mini DMV) to transfer a title from Texas to California for the Airstream.  (Yes, it has taken me a while, but I did get there, didn’t I?).  The young man who helped me asked me if I had always gone by the name of Len for Helen.  “Yes,” I said.  “My mother was Helen and they decided when I was born to call me Len.”  I actually don’t know when or how that came about.  I suspect Mama and Daddy started out calling me Helen or Little Helen and then they realized that was going to be a confusing (and possibly big name) for a little baby. Somehow they settled on Len and I have been Len Leatherwood every since.

Of course, the change in my name may have had something to do with the fact that I have a first cousin named Lee Leatherwood and he is six days older than me.  Maybe while my Aunt Luverne and my mother were pregnant, they had a moment when they looked at each other and said, “Wouldn’t it be grand if our babies had names that were one letter off from each other?”  Whatever the case, Lee and I do have names that are very close to one another and for that reason and a multitude of others, we have been very close all of these 64 years of our lives.

The young man at AAA (DMV division) said, “You expect Len to be a male and a female to be Lynn or Lynne.  I think it’s cool that you use the male spelling.”

“Thanks,” I said. “All my parents’ doing, but I think it’s cool too.”

It’s funny that I never asked my parents about how my name came to be.  I wish I had.  I’m glad they gave me a strong name that I love.

Of course, I often get mail addressed to Mr. Len Leatherwood and sometimes doctors are surprised when I walk in for an appointment instead of my male counterpart.  But that’s no big deal.

I tried going by Helen when I was in graduate school.  Well, I just didn’t bother to tell my professors that I went by Len instead of Helen and several just naturally started calling me by my “real” name.  Any of my close graduate school friends called me Len, of course.  The problem when someone calls me Helen is that it feels like they are actually addressing my mother.  She is the Helen Leatherwood in the family, not me.

I was surprised (and pleased) that the young man at AAA would take the time to note my name and actually chat about it.  Unlike Texas, where people seem to have time to talk at length about such things while conducting business, here in CA, this happens almost never.  Here it is get in, get out.  The difference might have been that I was at the Ventura office not the one in LA.  The smaller town might have made a difference.

Then my new friend asked me why I had bought the Airstream in 2015 and was only now registering it in CA.  Luckily, I had an answer.  “Well, we have a home still in Texas and it was there a long time before we brought it here.”  (Which is, of course, true.  I just didn’t mention it had been in the orange grove for a bit before my travels down to him.)

“Aw,” he said. “That’s fine.  Just sign your name right here and you’re done.”

I never expected a pleasant trip to get the trailer registered.

What a lovely young man.

CA plate

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