When I wrote this column a few weeks ago, we were still waiting on the arrival of our baby. We didn’t know if we would be naming a boy or a girl, what her eyes would look like, what color her hair would be, the length of her toes or the squish of her nose or anything about her little spirit.
So it seemed to me like a daunting task to pick out a name for a human we hadn’t yet me, although we had a name for a boy and a name for a girl picked out for years. We were prepared.
But I wasn’t prepared for it to fit so well. As soon as they handed me my baby girl, fresh out of the womb and onto my chest, her eyes were wide and looking, her lungs filled with air for a good wail, her arms and cheeks and legs filled out and the first thing that came to my mind was that this girl is fierce.
When I held her in my arms those first few moments of her life, when she latched on for her first feeding, bare skin to bare skin, we were both wide awake and learning and somehow the confidence this little being exuded, her complete understanding about how to be a baby, seeped into my skin too and gave me courage. She knew what to do.
I knew what to do.
We were going to be just fine.
And sure as the sun, she was an Edie.
She was going to live up to her name: Edith Elizabeth, but we would call her Edie. Edie is what we called my grandmother, a woman this baby could look up to. Her name would be a story she would hear about a cowgirl and a teacher and a woman who laughed with her whole body.
A caretaker and a lousy housekeeper who would rather go along on a roundup or a cattle feed or a fence fixing outing than stay inside the house, although I heard she always had the coffee on and a snack or supper on hand for anyone who stopped by.
Little Edie will carve out her own story, go on her own cattle drives, grow up to cook in her own kitchen and have her own adventures, but I am so happy to give her the gift of a name with a history of a great woman who lived a good life on this ranch.
And may she do the same.
by Jessie Veeder
My grandmother’s name was Edith Evangaline Delores Linseth Veeder. My cousins and I used to sit in the back seat of her Oldsmobile while she drove us to town and sing her name out loud to the tune of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” amazed at how perfectly her names fit into the tune.
If she didn’t appreciate her gaggle of grandkids making sport of her name, loudly and on repeat for a half-hour as she tried to concentrate on the road, she didn’t let on. She just laughed and interrupted our jingle by telling us the story of how her sisters were each allowed to pick out a name for her when she was born.
Edith, Evangaline and Delores made the cut.
Naming kids in a family of twelve must have been a creative feat in its own right, so it made sense that her mother enlisted some help.
As my due date creeps up, the significance task of giving a child a name as an identity has been on the top of my mind.
And it’s not because my husband and I are wavering on selections or arguing over middle names. It’s quite the opposite. Since we’ve been trying to have a baby for so long, we’ve had names for our boy and girl picked out for years.
But the idea that a tiny, smushy, freshly made person will take his or her first breath and we’re charged with providing a forever name without knowing a thing about this kid, is a big commitment.
This coming from me, who tried to change my name to Stephanie when I was in kindergarten after a little boy named August raised his hand and asked to be called Gus.
His request gave me the impression that kindergarten is where we get to change our names. So I raised my hand and declared that everyone must now call me Stephanie.
My sweet teacher looked at me and calmly declared she thought Jessica was a nice name and I should keep it.
I was pretty disappointed. But little did I know that I wasn’t being so unique. About thirty percent of girls born in that time period were also named Stephanie. The other seventy percent were, in fact, also named Jessica.
The proof is found every time I sit in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. When the nurse comes out and calls for “Jessica” at least three of us, all in our late twenties or early thirties, stand up.The same scenario likely happens to the Stephanies of the world, but I bet that never happened to Edith Evangaline Delores Linseth Veeder.
Anyway, I found a middle ground when my family moved back to the ranch when I was in second grade and, struck with a sudden urge to shorten things up, I introduced myself to my new country school classmates as Jessie, and I’ve been Jessie every since.
When it comes to choosing nicknames, it seems my family has a long history of changing things up.
For instance, my dad, Gene, was named after his father, Eugene, who was called ‘Pete’ his entire life and Pete’s brother, Edgar, was known as ‘Lorraine’ until his dying day.
When I asked about this random re-naming process I was told it had to do with how the two real-life brothers, Eugene and Edgar, took after two fictitious brothers, Pete and Lorraine, in an old story somewhere. And so the boys were renamed.
Funny to think about the ways we fit our labels in the end. I was named after the woman in the movie “The Man from Snowy River” because my mom could see me arriving with a fiery spirit and dark, curly hair like the character. Turns out she sort of had a premonition about things.
I have my own premonitions about this baby, and after a strong and painful kick to the bladder that woke me up wailing last night, I feel like I need to start researching names of famous ninjas.
Because without seven kids already born and named before this child, it’s up to the two of us to provide this new human with a name worthy of singing…or, at the very least, a name that sticks.