If you don't already know that my name is Amelia, it is because you don't listen. I live between the upper and lower valley near the old coal plant on top of the biggest, roundest hill in Dayton. Mine is the orange house with pink shutters and the lazy front door that sags a sad beige from when my daddy gets angry and slams it open and shut, open and shut. My daddy is not angry often--I don't want you to get the wrong idea--but he doesn't like dogs or cats or deer or wild rabbits or toads or hairless rats or ground hogs or termites or spiders or field mice or wild turkeys or animals with wounds that keep them from seeing or running or eating proper meals or any of the living things that I collect and cherish and let pass in and out of that door without much thinking. Luckily for me and my zoological menagerie of the injured, the made lame, and the previously rejected, my daddy loves me. It is only the door that suffers physically--the animals get the stink eye, but my smiles can undo any Daddy-don't-love-you stink eye.
My mother is the reason you'd know my name (that and my tendency to hold conversations with my five dogs. You see I do their part too: "What shall we do today, Cakes?" I ask. Cakes says back, "I think we should lollygag in the river and swirl smooth stones in our mouths, Amelia.").
My mother stands atop our hill in the doorway for the beige door that hangs funny and hollers: "Amelia! Ameeeeelia! AMMMEEEEEEEEEELYAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" I love the way she hollers my name. My mother the singer. She has a beautiful voice that hums like a guitar, like car tires on a smooth road. My mother calls my name like she wants me, and so it is a loud, long sound that hits the trees and grass and the tall, tall reeds that edge the mad Mad River. My name means love when it's yelled like that.
I am named for Amelia Earhart. Silly, I know and not what you'd guess. My father says Amelia Earhart wasn't the hero people think she was: "She was just a woman manipulated by the media in order to achieve fame." People made a hero out of her to make money, to sell newspapers. They did not name me after her because she was the first or because she was the best or because she was famous. "She was an argonaut," Daddy says. (Argonaut means adventurer in case you don't know and you can remember that because it looks like astronaut and an astronaut is an adventurer.) He says, "She was an argonaut not because she flew a plane, but because she dared to disappear. To fall of the map, if you will. We expect the same from you, Amelia. We want our daughter to create her own world, to fall off this map and into her own." I've tried to explain this to the kids at school, to say, I am named for a woman who disappeared, but Johnny Gruesome and Evelyn say it is stupid. They say: "Amelia Earhart died! She crashed and died! Your parents want you to crash and die!" I've stopped arguing with them. I know what I know, and I know what they don't know so I just shut up about it these days.
Knowing this about my name made me less surprised the day I first saw the church spire pushing up through the water. I knew then that I'd just discovered the off-the-map world I'd been meant to discover from the start. I told my five dogs--Cakes, Hotdog, Roundog, Spittle, and Calliope--"This is it! We have to get to that church spire. Something is under that lake and its calling Amelia! Ameeeeelia! AMMMEEEEEEEEEELYAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"