Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's in a Name?

I have recently made a resolution. It's the same resolution that I've made like 7 other times. It is the resolution to write on my blog, and not just post a billion pictures of my cute kids. I would still like to do that.
But this blog is not only the boys' baby book, and my connection to the world, it is also my journal. So sometimes, I need to remember to journal a little.
That's why there have been a few essay-type posts lately. And that's why this is happening:

Left - The picture of her on my desk. I think she looks like my mom in this picture. Right - The only pictures of her that I could find in my house, I know my mom has more. But the only on the left is me with Baba Lou and my grandpa Jim when we were sealed in the temple, and the one on the right is Baba Lou and my sister Mary and me.
I am named after my Great-Grandma Louise (I am Rebeccah Louise.) I have always felt a strong connection to Baba Lou (as we called her, you know Baba is Russian for Grandmother, and Lou for Louise. Nope. She wasn't Russian. She just liked it.) Because I was named after her, I have a few little things that were hers, like a handkerchief with Louise embroidered on it, and a set of scriptures with her name embossed on the cover. I have a book of hers, and a few sketches that she drew in high school. I have a picture of her on my sewing table. I even have a few of her old dresses, which I love to wear.
She died when I was only 11, so I don't have too many memories of her. But I remember lots of little things.
She always had candy out at her house. Hot tamales, I think, and other things, too.
She made decorative foods, especially cookies. Santa Cookies with sanding sugar beards!
Her house was warm, cozy, inviting and interesting.
There were pristine bedrooms with porcelain dolls in little wicker chairs and giant glass bottles full of matchboxes from different hotels. There were containers filled with hundreds of fortunes, saved from cookies over the years. There were little soaps shaped like seashells.
Everything in the house was lying under 15 layers of paint. She painted and repainted everything when fancy took her.
Her yard was a jungle to a nine year old. There were planter boxes full of different flowers and vegetables with winding dirt paths between them. There were bird baths and bird houses and giant old trees.
One of the trees housed a family of raccoons. Every night after dinner, Baba Lou would set out a little bowl of water, and left overs from dinner. The raccoons would come down to the back door and wash their little paws and then eat.
If she forgot to set out their dinner, they would rap at the glass door with their tiny little fists. As a child, that was the most magical thing I'd ever experienced.
Christmas! I remember her house at Christmas. I'm sure that I've exaggerated the memory in my mind, but as a child it seemed that she had nearly a dozen little trees, each decked with lights and dainty ornaments. A tree with only instruments strung from it. A tree covered in butterflies. A tree covered in the handmade ornaments from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And garland and bells everywhere. Lights and Christmas music playing.
Even in the dozen years since her death, I still meet people who eagerly tell me stories of how wonderful she was. How kind, how funny, how lovely. Growing up, I wanted to be like her. I wanted people to remember me the way that I remembered her.
I wanted my house to be full of old music, like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. I wanted to always write personal birthday notes and send them in the mail. I wanted to have a cuckoo clock with a train that ran around the outside. I wanted kids to come to my house, and be less interested in watching tv than exploring. I wanted my flour and sugar in glass jars. I wanted to be graceful and delicious smelling. I wanted to make my children pancakes in the morning while wearing a nightgown not my underwear, or husband's sweats. I wanted felt hot-glued to everything, yo.
Who am I kidding? I still want those things. I'm sure that the memory that I have of her has been embellished and perfected, but I don't mind.

My mom recently said, in an off-hand way, "I think you must be channeling the spirit  of Baba Lou."
I can't remember what I was doing that made her say that, but I was so pleased and flattered. I think about it all the time.
Another time, a few months ago, a friend asked if I was named after anyone. Then she asked if I felt a "connection to them" at all.
It made me wonder, how much of these things did I try to emulate from my memories and how much would we actually have in common if I didn't remember or care about Baba Lou? Maybe that's like nature vs nurture. Would I love Christmas as much as I do, if I'd been adopted and raised by another family? Who knows? Who cares?

But it did make me start thinking about the boys' names. We named Grey and Micah after their grandfathers, respectively. Grey Christopher and Micah David. My father and father-in-law. At the time, it was for many reasons, like 1. We love our fathers and wanted to show tribute of sorts to them. 2. I love the idea of "family names." 3. We had two boys and two fathers, so it seemed too good to pass up.
But now, I especially love the idea that we named the boys after men that we hope they grow up like.
In each of the boys baby books, I included a very personal page. (Most of their books are exactly the same. "At one month you can do this, and here's a picture of you and your brother." Etc, but they each have half a dozen "personal pages.")
Each boy's book has a paragraph about how I felt the first time I held him, and then it has a paragraph about his name.
For example, Grey's book says something like, "You were named after your Grandpa Chris and we hope that you grow up to emulate his qualities, like passion and creativity, love of his family and willingness to work hard and never give up. Etc."
I love it. As I wrote those paragraphs, I became very aware of the things about my father and father-in-law that I especially love and respect. It helped me realize the things that I want passed on to my boys, things I want to make a point of cultivating. It made me resolve, not only to give the rest of our future kids awesome names, but meaningful family names. I want them to grow up with somebody to look up to and emulate. I want them to copy their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I want them to have fond memories and cherished old possessions, like 50 year-old handkerchiefs.

And I'm curious if this is just me (lover of old things) or if you were named after someone and feel the same way - a connection and desire to know more about them, and be closer to them. I wonder if you've named your children after people that you respect and love, and if you try to cultivate their best qualities in your children. If you've made it all the way to the end of this long post, please leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts!


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9 comments:

Party of Three Heads said...

First, before I forget, on of the captions under your picture said it was when you were sealed in the temple. WHat does that mean. Second, I personally wasn't named after anyone, but I named my son after my Great great Grandpaw ,and my Great great Uncle. I named Him after those two for a couple of reasons... My paw paw, and uncle too have played a significant role in my life... and I couldn't find a better way to show them that then to name my First born, Son after them. Also, I named him after the said above because I haven't met two more Humble, loving, caring, giving, family oriented,God loving, successful business-men than those two... I can only HOPE that my son grow to be like His Great great great Grandpaw, and Great great great uncle... Makes me giddy just talking about it..

Becky Pitcher said...

@ Party of Three Heads:
When most Mormon couples are married, they do it in the temple -which is different than our meeting houses, because we believe the temple is the House of God. We get married in the temple, because the people who work there have authority to marry us for eternity, as opposed to "death do us part."
Because my parents weren't originally married in the temple, they took our whole family to the temple when I was a kid to be sealed, which is essentially like being remarried in the temple. We called it "sealing" because of the scripture that says "Whatsoever ye shall seal on earth, shall be sealed in Heaven."
So basically, that is a picture from when my parents were remarried in the Mormon Temple.

faeriequeene said...

I'm not named after anyone - my dad came up with my name and that was that.

I named my children after family members: my daughter's middle name is Jean - named specifically for my husband's uncle, but also to acknowledge my paternal grandmother's brother and my maternal grandmother's sister; and my son's middle name is Michael - after my dad, who is Michael Andrew but has always gone by Andrew. I'm an only child, and my uncle (dad's brother) has no biological children so our last name stops with the two of them. We didn't want our son to have my maiden name for his middle name mostly because it didn't "fit" so we chose to carry on my dad's first name instead.

My mother's birth name was Stella Dianne, after her grandmother, but dropped Stella when she got married - I've said that if my son had been a girl he would have been Stella Margaret to honor my mom and one of her aunts.

Elizabeth said...

I am Elizabeth Solveig, and Solveig was my great-grandmother's name and was my mom's favorite grandmother. She died rather young (my mom was 16), so I have never met her, but she was such an incredible lady so I feel privileged to share her name (in is Norwegian). My mom's middle name is Elizabeth, and she also really liked Pride and Prejudice--thus being named Elizabeth. Elanor's middle name is Susan, which is my mom's name.

Aimee said...

My middle name is Kristine after my dad's just younger sister. She died while my dad was on his mission, so I never met her here on earth, but I love that I have her name and can bring a part of her here even if I don't know if I am like her because I don't know how she is. When I have a daughter I want her middle name to be Kristine as well. :)

Songbook said...

My husband and I like to use family names since I'm pregnant again we think about this all the time! It is SO HARD to choose a name! I definitely would like to give my children unique and beautiful-not outdated names however, so we usually come up with a way to make the name somewhat of a family name. For example, my name is Tani Bree so my daughter's name is Brielle- she is named after me. Her middle name is Clara- the name that I felt like fit who she is perfectly- it means light and music and laughter. And for some reason I felt like she would be that person before she was born- and she is!

Nicole Calvert said...

My middle name is Pauline, after my aunt who passed away the year before I was born. I don't know if I feel any special connection to her, since I never knew her, but I know she had to have been a very special person for my parents to name me after her. Its nice to know that my name has deeper meaning; it makes me feel special like my aunt must have been.

Christene said...

While I don't have kids I love the idea of using family names, especially for middle names. I have been thinking about possibilities but I keep getting worried about being fair to each side of the family and worrying we'll hurt someone's feelings if we don't use their name. It's probably a silly worry.

My family only uses family names for middle names while my husbands side uses names that sound well with their first name. So now were trying to compromise on our traditions.

Elizabeth said...

My name is a family name Elizabeth is from my mom and her grandmother and Alexander is a long standing family name on the Froelich side (our grandpa's favorite uncle was Axel which was a nickname for Alexander and grandpa's grandfather was an Alexander too I believe) and all of my children have family names. Alexander Thomas- that is my and Andrews middle names. Aurora Mae- My mother-in-laws middle name is Mae which was her mothers and grandmothers middle names (Aurora means light or dawn- she is our little ray of light). Gabriel Micheal- Gabriel was Stephen's confirmation name and Micheal is Stephen's middle name and my brother in laws name. All of my children's names have special meaning and importance. I love old, passed on names. They are my favorite.