Thursday, March 11, 2010

The name game

I was always in charge of finding names for our kids. I had my first sons name chosen, (almost) before he was born. Way before. Yes, I was one of those idiot types who picks out names for my imaginary kids long before they ever came to fruition. Hell, long before the guarantee of a second date was even in the picture. I look back at that version of self and both ridicule and stand in awe of my utter optimism.


That being said, as time marched on and after the marriage thing and my fertility, our fertility, seemed to check out ok, I was in charge of the lists. Then we would go over the names and when we agreed, bingo.

First C., like I said, I had it all picked out. It was a favorite name of mine, uncommon, I never wanted to name a baby a name that I associated with anyone else, it was not easily turned into a nickname or shortened into something else and when I put my dad's name in the middle, they worked together. The husband liked the sound of it and the baby complied by being a boy, so we got our C.

Next up, C2. Not on purpose. I never intended to be a 'all my kids names start with the same letter' sort of parent. But we have an odd last name and the hard C or K sound flows well with it. We do like names that are unusual. Neither of us wanted our kids to be John H, or John W, etc in class. We had two great names ready for baby 2. I was really, really pulling for a girl because I so loved the girl name we had chosen. And we got to use it. I love saying it. I love hearing it. I love seeing the quizzical looks on peoples faces when they hear it. She carries a unique first name and my favorite grandma's nickname as a middle name which is also, to say the least, unusual. But it suits her. It's perfect.

We had only just decided on a name for 'the baby', at least a boy's name, the week before we lost him. It was another unusual first name. A "C" name and then the middle name was the last name of a very close friend who had died a few years before.

When we were told that our baby had died we were asked if we would want to name 'it'. We still didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl. We both, without even talking about it, said no, it will be "Baby _" fill in last name initial. And that was how we left things. Even after he was born, after I asked, "Is it a boy?" and the nurse said, "Yes, did you know?" (confirming my suspicions that indeed he was, a boy). We told her that on the birth certificate it should read "Baby Boy _".

It wasn't until after we got home that I changed my mind. I wanted him to have his own name. And so we named him Caleb. The story of why we chose that name is here.

I had never known anyone with that name before. That was one of my naming 'criteria', to not have another face to put with my child's name. The thing is, when you are so NOT religious, like me, you forget, that other people might actually name their kids names found in the Bible. And, even though our kids attend public school, turns out, those other people might not keep their kids at private school. And, as I so harshly found out, they might even have a little boy the same age as my daughter and he might just end up in her Kindergarten class. And as luck might have it, I might get to sit down at a tiny little 'phonics' station, in a tiny little kinder sized chair on my first day back to reality after my Caleb had died having come to fulfill my volunteer time in the classroom (xanax thankfully fully on board, although the next dose was stupidly left out in my car, 20 endless feet stretching between me and it, THAT would never happen again). My luck continuing, I would have to call children back to work with me individually, and the first name I would have to call, would, of course, be, CALEB.

I had to say it out loud. I had to call for this child. I had to beckon this child to come to me. I had to summon this little boy, who I had never seen, to come and sit with me to learn his letters. There was no avoiding it. I thought, seriously, about running out to my car and choking back a few more of the little pills tucked away in the console. But I didn't. I forced myself to say it. To say his name. And then I waited. And then I had to say it louder, maybe the first time I had only whispered. It's possible. And so I said it again. Louder. I fought the tears back, I swallowed the hard ball in my throat. I put on a happy face. Well, a xanax face anyway.

And a chubby little dark haired boy ambled his way back to the station where I waited. I so wanted to like him. I so wanted that soap opera moment. I wanted him to be perfect. I wanted to love him. I wanted to heap a lifetime of something onto this child. I wanted it to be magical. It wasn't. He annoyed me. He was irritating. He was not my Caleb. But he shared his name and I hated it. About an hour later, I left the classroom, got into my car, threw back a diet coke and several of the little white pills that had waited so patiently for me. I drove home and went to bed.

Two years have passed since then. And every one of them has brought the 'other' Caleb into my daughters class. Every. Single. One. His grandmother, who, small world, is friends with a good friend of mine, came to the surprise baby shower my friends threw me when I was pg with Cason. She made me an adorable diaper bag. I had never met her before that day. But she heard 'my story' and wanted to come and bring something for the baby. For me. I love her. I can't stand her grandson.
And now for the real point of the post. My very good friend watches the other Caleb, everyday after school. I came to know this friend 'after'. She has a son my daughters age and a daughter my older sons age. We became good friends during that darkest of years of my life. Such good friends that I never once talked about Caleb to her. I never told her and it made that friendship easy for me. She found out later. When I was first pg with Cason and people started to guess and then the whispering of "She isn't saying anything because of....' and then she heard. But we've never really ever talked about it. And that's on me, not her.
But I digress. She watches him. She can't stand him either. She calls me just to vent about him. And when she does, it's, 'Caleb this and Caleb that and Ohhhhh Caleb....' and it just kills me. Hearing his name over and over, hearing it linked to the words, 'is so awful' or 'is so rude' or 'is so slow' or 'is so gross when he eats'....the list goes on. And I hate it. To be fair, she's right. I have volunteered at the school for years with kids and even I have to say he tops my list as one of those kids you just have to work really hard at even tolerating, but still.

The name.

The name.

The name.

I hate hearing her say the name.

I hate that this little boy has taken hold of the name I so carefully chose for my son, for my baby. I hate that at times it is his face that comes to mind when I hear the name said out loud. I hate that others can utter his name and it goes unnoticed, that another tiny life also shared that name. Shares that name.
I want no one to ever say his name, ever. I want it to be mine and his, alone. I want for it to never be spoken aloud.

And yet, everyday I say it, I whisper it, I think it. And I miss him.



Hope's Mama said...

Took my breath away this post.
Whispering his name with you.


Suzy said...

I have been lucky enough to never come across another child with my starbabies name in my real life. I honestly do not know what I would (will?) do if and when that happens. Luckily for me it is an unusual name in australia.
I cannot imagine how it must have compounded your grief in those early days - and how it must grind on you every time you hear his name spoken, and not in relation to him, but to a child you can't stand!

Thinking of you, and Caleb today and always xxx

Tash said...

I remember you writing about this over on my blog -- I hate that you have this association with what is such a profound word for you. I can only imagine.

I'm faced with a world of Maddy's/-ie's, but none of them seem to derive from the whole so I usually let it go although there's often an initial shock. It's so hard to pick names -- I know now that this guy will need one, regardless of outcome, and that's making it so difficult wondering how this name will turn in my head: will it be yelling at him to come in or in grief and despair? Will it make a difference?

I love the name Caleb.

Sarah said...

I love the name Caleb.

And I so know what you mean...we named our daughter Isabel, because I loved it as a child, because of the meaning. But I run into 8 million's hard to hear your child's name called. When you never get to call it out yourself...I'm sorry.

angie said...

There is something about the way you describe the name Caleb here that sounds like a prayer, or a whisper of the wind, echoing through life. So beautiful. And then the awful little brown haired boy...his name, while it may sound the same to some ears, is not the same. xo Sending you love. Beautiful post.

charmedgirl said...

i've never met another paige. there are, however, many paiges on TV...especially listed in credits. marc always turns to me with that face, like, LOOK...PAIGE. why does he do that? doesn't he know i want to pretend i never saw it? i don't want to commiserate anymore.

it really sucks that a horrible kid has his name. i would hate that.

lady said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
niobe said...

Sigh. I didn't give my twins names. And, most of the time, I'm perfectly happy with that decision. But still.

missing_one said...

You're right though, nothing like your little Caleb.

I know I hear Jessica's name a lot but usually it is by teenagers and adults. I think if I saw a little toddler/baby/preschooler with that name, it'd make me wonder....

I love Caleb's name. His name is just so beautiful.

CLC said...

I am sorry you have to put up with this other boy sharing his name. Your Caleb is the only one that I will ever associate with that name.

Ya Chun said...

that sucks that your name has been co-opted.

Maybe you two should come up with a nickname for this terror (plus, also then the mom won't overhear you gals griping!!!!)

That just sucks.

Michele said...

This was so beautiful.... I always get a pain when I hear about Nicholas's or Sophia's or Alexander's who are "bad" kids... As though it is so unfair that my perfect babies died while these "unperfect" babies lived to make people miserable. But I truly see all kids as blessings... Even if we cant see it or know it. But it does hurt. So much.

Reese said...

I think I would faint if I heard Ronan's name uttered by someone. Kind of the nice thing about his name being so unusual.

That being said, I do hear it a lot in a last name, and it still throws me. Every time. Even seeing it in print as a last name still throws me.

Big hugs to you. Caleb is forever in my mind as your sweet boy's. He rests comfortably preserved in all his beauty there...

G$ said...

Names, names, names are totally on my mind lately. This post drives it home as to why I get sucker punched sometimes.

Much love to you K and Caleb.


Christy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
loribeth said...

Catching up on a Google Reader backlog. Just wanted to say I understand. (((hugs)))