It’s one thing to be disappointed in your name. We all go through this. At one point in our lives we want to change our first name, or middle name, or last name. In 5th grade, my friends and I were obsessed with the name “star.” I’m sure it had something to do with Madonna and her “lucky star.”

I hated being an “Anna.” It was different. I didn’t know any other Anna. I was the sole owner proved by the fact they never made those miniature license plates or plastic key chains with “Anna” on them. The row always skipped from “Ann” to “Amber.” I hated that. I wanted to be a “Sarah” or “Jessica” even though I wasn’t. I was definitely an Anna. And a fabulous one.

Years later I learned to love my name, that is was different, that is was unique. I also began to sneer at other girls named “Anna.” I wanted to be the sole owner. Even though I continued to look for “Anna” on pre-made name necklaces or notepads with pre-printed “From the desk of ____,” I’m secretly happy to see the row skip from “Ann” to “Amber.”

Every girl tries to rename herself through baby names. When she names her baby dolls, her cat, her fish, or her dog, she’s trying out names for future children. I had a lion named Elizabeth and a dog named Meghan. I would, however, no longer use these girls’ names. It’s not really an issue as the prospective or possibility of having children is dwindling as the years pass, but there is one name that I have informed my family that I lay claim to. There is one name that rests in my heart as the perfect girl name. It’s different, it’s unique, and it’s sentimental. It’s Hazel.

It’s antiquated name from the early 1900s and until lately it had not re-surfaced. Julia Roberts, however, has made sure that “Hazel” will now appear on miniature license plates and plastic key chains everywhere. If I ever have a baby girl, she will not be the sole owner of “Hazel.”

She was famous in our family for her pound cakes. Ladened with butter and vanilla, sometimes sour cream, they were fabulous. My memories of my Great Aunt Hazel are few and fuzzy, but her pound cakes I remember well. She was gone by the time I was 12 and by then she had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. I remember visiting her in Florida with my brothers and parents. She had no idea who we were, but I remembered her, her small frame, her white hair, and her wrinkled hands with gemmed rings pouring flour and sugar and butter into a bowl to mix. I remember her perfect pound cakes.

Sometimes I feel aligned with her because she was single all her life. I feel like I understand why she never married. I’m sure she has suitors, but for some reason she stood alone. She did the independent thing. And for her age, for her time, that was saying something. She was a radical. She was a free bird.

She lived in Florida next door to her sister and her husband for her retired years. She was in her eighties when she died, but she was not alone. She had a family who loved and supported her and great nieces and nephews who baked with her. She lives on in my mind like I’m sure she would if she had had her own children. Every time I make a pound cake, I think of Aunt Hazel.

I bake with my nieces and nephew. I do it because food is the most amazing thing to share and cooking is the best gift to teach someone. And I do because Hazel did it with me. I pass down the traditions of our family through baking because I have time and lots love to give because I’m single like my Hazel was.

When I think about my single life and worry that it will forever be this way, I think of Hazel. I think that she seemed happy, that she had great jewelry and that she made amazing pound cakes. I think that even if I never have my own little Hazel, I know that I will live on like my hazel did, in the memories of my nieces and nephew.

I only wish and hope that I have a girl one day to pass down the name and the pound cakes. And I will forgive Julia Roberts for her usurping my baby name because maybe she had a great aunt too, who was buried with her jewels and who made taught her to bake by mixing butter and sugar.

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