My name is Sonya Hutchison, and I always hated my first name:
- There were no other “Sonyas” in Lititz, Pennsylvania.
- I was named for my father’s former high school girlfriend.
- People did not know how to pronounce the “o.” It was supposed to be a short sound like the “o” in Montana. I often heard a long “o” sound as in moan.
- I wanted to be called Brigette.
I guess I eventually grew into my name, and as I got older, I learned that when I heard my first name, mispronounced or not, I knew it was me.
I grew up near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a small city, settled in 1730, which remains America’s largest inland city. Sixty miles west of Philadelphia, it served the American Colonies’ capital for one day as the patriots escaped west. It was once filled with Amish, Mennonite, and other “plain” people who set up country markets, small businesses, and their homes. They were the Swiss and Germans, my ancestors. James Buchannan has a home here. Never heard of him? That’s okay. He was President just before Abraham Lincoln. Lancaster today, is a city of refugees from Nepal, the Congo, Mali, Vietnam, Myanmar, and many more countries. I taught English as a Second Language in the city, and we set up a refugee center to support the children and families.
I live in Lancaster today, but what was that town I mentioned earlier? Lititz? (Yes, mispronounced. No, not “Le Tits” Ha, ha.) Lititz (accent on the first syllable) is famous for having the first pretzel bakery in the United States, and for John Sutter. He came to Lititz to rest in the mid-1800s because gold was discovered on his land in California. He is buried in the town, although California wanted him back. No way was that going to happen.
I can be a cryptic person. For example, if you tell me it’s a nice day outside, and I really shouldn’t be inside writing, I will probably tell you,
“Yes, but there are people outside,” which will confuse you.
I can also be sarcastic. I had to learn this when I worked at a high school where the students would actually cuss me out. “You’re a f**** old head,” one said, and I replied, “Yes, but I’m a lot smarter than you!” Ouch! Now that’s something the teaching classes don’t tell you to do.
I am passionate about chocolate, and it is my fortune to live about forty-five minutes away from Hershey; even better, there is a chocolate factory in Lititz, or at least there was. They were bought out by a conglomerate, but the store remains. I don’t care if the old factory is being repurposed into condos, as long as I can buy the chocolate. I used to love dark chocolate, but I found out it was semi-good for you, so now milk chocolate is my favorite. And don’t talk to me about “white chocolate,” because one Easter I ate an entire solid white chocolate rabbit, and I got very sick. Real brown chocolate would not have done that.
Otherwise, I am a half-retired ESL teacher who now gets up at five am to teach online preschoolers in China. (They think I’m funny and don’t cuss me out.) And I write.
Today, I write to support troubled young people who are afraid to tell their stories. They do not know the downward spiral of poverty and drugs on their streets will only hurt them more. I can speak for them because I taught them, and some had the courage to tell me about their lives which are full of people who do not give up and families who love. My readers may also be one of them, and if not, they will be compelled to listen and think and want to learn more. Our differences make us individuals.