open the room of my mind
search for me
listen to words
There was once a girl named
her heart sparked with truth
My mother always 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.
“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 for truth to manifest into form.
I never doubted the existence of this book, 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 each word he spoke.
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 on my computer screen, if my hair had been lighter and I had more courage. Here before me was a child 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 her friend.
My mind swirled back into the past, remembering a childhood lived inside secrets and slippery truths, 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, and I now 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.
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Alethea’s healing and writing journey began at Goddard College, where she wrote the first draft of her memoir A Girl Named Truth. After receiving her MFA, Alethea continued to explore the healing power of words through her writing, and delved into her life studies of shamanism, metaphysics and energy healing. She is a Master/Teacher Shamballa Multidimensional Energy Healer, a companion of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness and owner of Inner Truth Healing.
This is the first chapter of her memoir, A Girl Named Truth (yet to be published). Alethea is currently working on a series of middle grade/young adult fantasy books, which she is calling The Labyrinth. Her writing has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including: Airplane Reading, My Other Ex: Women’s Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends, The Whirlwind Review, Illuminations of the Soul and Emerge Literary Journal. For more information about Alethea, please visit her website: aletheakehas.com