Susann with two ns

       Susan cycling four miles to school


My mother was named Susann with two nns by the time I was born. I never knew her any other way. She was an early example to me of reinvention and how we change our stories to make ourselves the victors. Truth is elusive and I’m only going to spend a little time looking for it, not letting it get in the way of a good story. Writers make shit up, I’ve heard, and all writing is autobiographical,  another generalization, colliding now as memoir fades and transforms to the more becoming auto-fiction. I am discovering how much fun making stuff up can be, and using an imagination to create something that has not existed and isn’t drawn like blood,  with an alcohol level exceeding .08, from my life. So my message is, never trust a narrator.

I was born on February 3, 1921 on a very blustery day about four miles southwest of Altona in a village that used to be  called Blumenhof, which does not exist any more, only the cemetery is there.

In those days doctors had to be called in by horse and sleigh and registration of names did not take place soon after a child was born. By the time my name was registered it was already the following December. How that happened – well, you didn’t just go to town any old time. It was in December that father gave a paper, just an ordinary piece of paper, a letter, to register my birth, to someone – no-one seems to remember who it was, to take into the municipal office to register my name. Father had written down Susannah. I was supposed to be registered as Susannah, with the “ah” at the end. Well, whoever went and took the letter in decided to change my name and call me “Susie”on the municipal registration, which, of course, I never was. I was always called Susan.

To prove that, I have report cards from my elementary school that shows my name in the Register as “Susan”. I never liked just the single “n”, and so to change that I went to the

Susann getting her bearings, 1941 Hordean, Easter, with flooding.

quay Building in 1986 when I planned to go to Australia. I had to have an ID Card for a new passport. I wanted that information to be as I had registered in university. As Susann with two ns. I’ve checked our 1941 marriage certificate and there I am still Susan with one “n”, but by the time I finished my degrees in the 1960’s I was using the two n’s.

I had no trouble getting my Social Insurance or Canadian Pension or Old Age Pension under the name Susann. But I was having trouble getting it that way on my passport so I had to go get it changed. The people in the passport office or Vital Statistics told me to bring in some official document, a school register, for example, before I had turned 15. So I dug up an old school register from the time I was in grade six or seven, Kate Klassen would have been my teacher; and there, sure enough, I was registered as Susan. Not “Susie”, which I never was, or even as “Susannah” as father had wanted to name me. But as Susan.

So I brought a copy of this record in to them, to prove my name had been Susan, and that my name had been wrongly registered. This they accepted but I did have to pay $25 to add the second n,

to make my name Susann, the way I had been writing it for a long time already. I liked it better that way, and it seemed to me I was just shortening my name, dropping the “ah” from Susannah as Dad had wanted to name me, and writing my name as Susann.    

I was never Susie. They never even called me Susie at home. Sometimes they called me “Sue”- “Suess” in low German. But I objected to ever being called “Sahn”, that’s low German, an ÄltColonische Wort, for Susan. In Russia it would have been Sonja, and I would even have preferred that.




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