Naming a baby
Made me think of something I jotted down about naming the girls…
A Name is just a Name (until of course, my child hits fifth grade)
Over the course of my professional life, I have had the opportunity to name the following: companies, hospitals, other smaller, less prestigious facilities and structures (including but not limited to parking garages and highway overpasses), books, articles, and three dogs. I have done, to my way of thinking, a pretty good job naming things. And so I felt that because of my vast reservoir of professional experiences naming things, I could fairly assume that when it came to being part of the process to name a baby, my professional experience would come to bear and I would be more than capable at naming a six-pound person. After all, I had named giant buildings and bridges.
Nope. I was clearly unprepared for the pressure that lay ahead.
All this talk about picking baby names came mere moments after we were officially confirmed as expecting and placed into heavy rotation by the ob doctor. The moment we got into the elevator and I had that slightly light-headed feeling of “Hokey smokes, I’m going to be a Daddy,” my clear directive was “the minute we leave the doctors office…” no strike that, it was, “the minute we leave the Krispy Kreme with the hot donut light flashing after we leave the doctors office we need to go directly to the nearest Barnes & Noble to pick up every possible book on the subject of baby names.” Once I heard that, it was clear that trouble was a brewing.
In terms of baby naming books and other assorted stuff, there are tons. (And by ton, I mean the amount they would weigh if you threw them all in the nearest dumpster. Not that you would.) There are books with old names, (imagine Pilgrim grannies from the Mayflower,) and books of new names (imagine the kind of names that would never ever have a chance of ending up in a book of old names). There were big name books, and small name books; there were ethnic name books and traditional name books. There were even name books that gave you the ancient Gaelic meanings of names:
"Hello, I’d like you to meet my daughter Svelorskiabstrami.’
"My, what an (big gulp) unusual name."
"Yes, thank you, it is ancient Gaelic for ‘name is unpronounceable."
"Oh that’s great."
"But don’t worry, we call her Hannah for short."
There were also books with religious names, books with family-meaning names, and some other books that don’t show any meaning to the names. Those particular books must be for the parents that want their kids to have "who am I?” issues down the road.
I thought we might approach it as a buffet. You know, take a little bit here, a little bit t here. No. We picked up one of each. I guess it was at that very moment, when I lugged our new unabridged baby name library to the check out stand, that I realized this whole “baby thing” was going to be expensive. After spending (no investing…yeah, it was investing) a sum not that much south of what we spend for the mortgage on our first house, we prepared to leave the check out stand with our six bags of books. I grabbed the four biggest bags (yeah for me!) and quickly headed to the door. Expecting (quite reasonably, I thought) that my expecting wife would get the other two bags. I had just propped open the door when she called out to me as she pointed to the bags and then gently patted her tummy. She then said the words that I would I come to hate “You know the doctor said that I shouldn’t (fill in the blank.) I trudged back, pack muled the other two bags, and headed to our soon-to-be-obsolete sedan.
Immediately after we got home we began to thumb through the books looking for names. We started quickly as we had plenty of work to do since we had to pick a name for “both teams” since we had decided early on against any sort of pre-birth discovery announcement. We had had friends who said “we think it’s a girl, but it might be a boy, but then again there was a sort of fuzzy view…” and then they ended up with twins. To me, a pregnant hormonal mom and a way in over his head dad were in no position for those kinds of surprises. So we said we would play it out to the end as a great mystery. About two pages into the first book my second grade playground experiences came tumbling back into my memory.
Fatwood, fatwood, Jeff’s name is Fatwood…Oh I get it, in your clever second grade minds, you are taking my surname, attaching another letter to the front, and calling me a “name.” Very nice. Well, I will never stoop to your level, my formerly good friend “Barry, Barry, quite contrary. How does your garden grow?”
So clearly the naming thing a big deal and the subsequent pressure was enormous. The name that we chose for our child would be something that he or she would be saddled with, for better or worse, for the rest of her life. And if by chance they ended up with a nasty, goofy name it was no one’s fault but mine. In order to reach a name decision we could both live with, we started with a few very important ground rules.
The name could not be dumb. Yes this seems simple, but have you seen the names coming out of Hollywood these days. For the purpose of definition, dumb meant the kind of name that when our son/daughter left the room people would fall on the floor laughing until they wet themselves…of course it would serve them right to have to change their trousers after laughing at our child.)
The name couldn’t rhyme with anything dumb, (“Hi my name is Flimming Fool.”)
The name couldn’t end up with initials that were dumb (“I’d like you to meet might my son Bradley Ulysses Taylor Tarkington.”)
The name couldn’t be the kind of name that is typically associated with a stripper, a crack dealer or a country radio D.J. (“I’d like you to meet our triplets, “Amber Nights” “Sticky Freddy” and “Dusty Rhoads.”)
Other than those rules everything was fair game. Oh, and one other thing. We felt that it was important that we agreed on the name.
Several months had passed and we found ourselves in our normal after dinner routine. Thumbing through the books while pounding down a quart and a half ofRocky Road ice cream. It was sometime towards the seventh or eight month (the beginning of the end) that we began to feel the pressure of the approaching deadline and, in hindsight, got a little bit desperate.
"How about something romantic?" my wife said. Hmmm, I took a short walk down memory lane. “So if it’s a boy, we could name it after the place where we had our first real conversation?” I can just see it now. “I’d like you to meet my son Bob Evans.”
OK next. We then ran through a list of family names. With each one there was an issue. Black sheep. In jail. Pushed me off the swing at the family reunion when I was six. Our next step was the phone book. We went from A-Z. The only thing we could agree on in their was AAAAA Lock Service.
As a last resort, we pulled out the atlas. Hey if people named towns after something, maybe it would be all right to name our child after a town, which was probably named after a person anyway.
All right then, let’s look at all the towns with family ties.
Philadelphia, no a little too "how you doing?”
Salem, no a little too “second-hand smoke.”
Keosauqua, a little too, well isn’t it obvious.
Maybe it could be “where were you born?” My bride was born in
Greensboro. Hmmm, no. Any name that makes me think of an off-color beast of burden is out. I was born in Madison,Wisconsin. Hey that’s a good one. Madison, not Wisonsin.
And so we arrived at Madison. What a lovely name for a lovely girl. There was really no fanfare or fireworks. Just a sense that we had the right name. As I think back now, we are fortunate we ended up with a daughter for as best as I can recall, we never did have a boy’s name. I guess that’s a good thing cause I am just not sure that our society is ready for a boy named Keosauqua.
Perhaps the most important name is a child of God…