My name, the syllables that I have known the longest, other than mama, speaks of my yearning every day. If nomen est omen — if the name is the sign — then my name is a tightly knit tapestry of who I am, what I love and where I come from. Just like my DNA. The longing for Italy is as unavoidable as the brown of my eye, as drawn-out as the ah sounds in my name.
This Piscean babe slithered into the world on March 9, with a whorl of dark hair and crooked fingers. Since I was an enthusiastic kicker, my parents expected me to be a boy (Marco, god of war) and did not have a girl’s name ready. There was a brief scuffle about naming me after my grandmother (Adelia, noble), my mother eager to please her in-laws, but it was my father who finally named me. Adriana, from the Latin hadrianus, meaning dark. I share this name with the Adriatic Sea, of course, the dark turquoise waves of which lap the coast that my tribe settled at 300 years before Jesus made any kind of appearance upon this earth.
In 16th century Italy, a palanca was a small bronze coin, but more commonly, in Italian and a selection of other European languages, a palanca is a plank of wood. More specifically still, there’s the cuter “palanchino”, which refers to a crowbar or any other kind of lever. Same for the Spanish “palanca”. A lever being the tool that, when pressure is applied on one end, it lifts a heavy load on the other end. If you slant towards things Catholic, a palanca is a kind of letter that gives support and guidance to someone who is retreating from the world in order to reflect and pray to God. An epistolary lever, if you will.
My mother’s maiden name is Ferretti, or the plural of ferretto, referring to small pieces of iron, the underwire of a bra or red soil, rich in iron.
No oracle whispered my fate into my ear. My name was not chosen by a passing angel. And yet when I look at my personal etymology, I am moved by how my names align with the way I experience this life.
I am full of richness and a great bestower of richness too. I am the velvet of darkness and the bright glint of bronze. I am made from the humble earth and push others upwards towards the sky. I am the moving rush of water and the unmoving density of tree. I am a fish with turquoise scales drawing an arc above the sea. I am an arc of words, moving through space and time, destroying and rebuilding molecules.
Fourteen letters that tell you everything you need to know about me. Seven syllables that forever entwine me the water, wood and iron of another country. Seven vowels and seven consonants that always draw me back to my roots, no matter how far I stray.