3.05.2014

WHAT'S IN A BABY NAME?

Creeping back to Slow Love Life...just beginning to dig out from under musty cardboard boxes that have spent years in storage. Much to report, eventually, on the pain and joy of settling into a new life. I finally admit that I do not have eight arms or two brains or V8 horsepower and can only do so much....

But meantime: this amazingly fun and highly distracting link to a history of baby names in the US over time, sent to me by my pal Shaun. Naturally, the first thing I did was plug mine into the Search tool. I was stunned to learn that there were 7 Dominiques in the US when I was named. No doubt they all had French mothers. I loathed my name when I was a child; it was too different and exceedingly difficult to spell. And worse, my mother had pinned a note to the smock I was forced to wear over my regular clothes (embroidered with my name in script of course) saying: "She has no nick name. Please use her full name."

To this day, my father has never once pronounced my name correctly, saying it in the masculine form. Dominick. Of course, when I was a kid, everyone said about my name, isn't that a boy's name? He wanted to name me Danielle, so he could call me Danny. My mother refused.  I used to think he could not pronounce Dominique correctly because he had wanted a boy child, then I thought, he simply cannot speak French, and then I decided, he will not speak French, he refuses: language is a way to mark a separation, a dividing line.

Any of you who have grown up in a two-language household will recognize some of the dysfunction that can set in. My mother always spoke French to me around other people who did not speak French--she still does--it was a way of throwing a magic circle of separation around us, a way of keeping us apart, and keeping me to her. When she took a nasty fall last year, out like a light, unconscious for quite a while, Theo and I got to the emergency room just as the ambulance was pulling up with her on the stretcher. I found myself babbling in French to her, calling her, trying to wake her up and focus her on where she was. French was what she heard. (She is better, now, sort of.) French was what I learned way before English; my toddler babble was an incomprehensible mix of the two, or so I am told by older Kentucky cousins who had a hard time figuring out what to make of it all.

I am still trying to figure out what to make of it all.

Perhaps because my parents are becoming so frail, and because I am once again setting up a new home, and because my son and his beloved wife are also setting up a new home, at the beginning of this miraculous journey called love....much about childhood, and about the twists and turns we take, is on my mind. My friend Cynthia says now that life is a river, and we are simply floating down on the water, we don't know what is ahead or around the bend. I always wanted to steer, to know where we were going, to decide where to land. But when I look at the landscape around me now, I realize I had no idea, and no control. In fact. I could never have predicted where I am living now, or what I spend my days doing as work--and yet, from the moment I first stepped out of the subway into this neighborhood, I recognized home, and from the moment I began to give voice to concerns about our climate, I recognized a calling.

 What's in a name? Everything--the seed, the germ, of a new life, given to us by those who bring us into this world, with all their hopes and expectations. And really, not much at all; a name is ours to fill as we choose, if we can ever get an oar into those currents deep enough to get somewhere....

Have fun with this, waste some time pondering your company over the years, and see what kinds of meditations arise on being....your name here

10 comments:

Heather in Arles said...

A little bit of syncronicity that made the hair on the backs of my arms rise while reading: a caring friend reminded me, just this very afternoon, that we have no idea where our lives are going and that we have no control but that each moment takes us forward and so how important to stay open to that step by step...
Sending my Best Wishes as you get settled into your new, from Provence,
Heather

Caroline Miller said...

I have read and enjoyed your books, but followed your editor's comments when your headed the magazine before that. Always thought your comments were so unique. I write a blog 5 days a week and know it's a good deal of work. I see you've been away from yours for a while. Do you feel that affects your readership?.

Sheryl said...

I don't know what Dominique's answer is to the question," I see you've been away from yours for a while. Do you feel that affects your readership?" My answer is a resounding, "NO". Even though I get an email alert whenever Dominique posts, I still check back here every single morning to see if there is a new post! I believe we are a faithful and very interesting group of readers who will happily be here, anytime Dominique is here. Welcome back Dominique! Lovely to read your words again. I have been imagining all the very happy times and all the very hard work in your recent life. Eagerly awaiting more pictures and more writing as you feel able. Sheryl in WA State

Linda said...

Welcome back! Missed your words! Too fun exploring my name.

karensandburg said...

As Dr. Seuss would say, "Hello again."

dterrydraw said...

Well, the "Story" of my name is utterly simple; I was named after my grandmother.....whose name was "David Ella Fudge". She was named "David" after her father. That, predictably enough in 1912 Waxahatchie, Texas, was soon shortened to "Dave", followed by her middle name.....so that everyone, all her life, referred to her as "Davella" (pronounced "Duh-vella"). I know..."Davella Fudge" sounds like one of those overwhelming, too-sweet, Southern desserts.
Not entirely incidentally? Her sisters (my great-aunts) were named James, Ezra, and Beuren. No kidding. Moreover?...I don't recall anyone's ever indicating the slightest puzzlement over the fact of four sisters' all bearing distinctly male names.
Congratulations on the upcoming wedding, by the way,
David Terry

dterrydraw said...

P.S. MY great-grandfather's full name was the same as HIS father's, grandfather's, and great-grandfather's names......"David Solomon Fudge". Oddly enough, no one in the family was even remotely Jewish, or did it ever seem to occur to anyone that strangers might assume they were (I kow this because I once asked my grandmother about the "David Solomon" business; she just stared and asked me why in the world would anyone think that the names "David" and "Solomon" might be regarded as being somewhat Judaic.).
Go figure....
David Terry (who, if I'm calculating correctly, is the sixth "David" in the line)

dterrydraw said...

Somewhat off-topic, but?....regarding weird namings?.....
A longtime friend of mine is a remarkably accomplished/talented artist. (also a resolutely single woman, with one very rowsty and fine dog that goes everywhere with her). Recently,I remarked to Herve that she could be, at times, just a bit eccentric, and Herve, raising his eyebrows, said "...'Eccentric'? David?...who else do you know that has named her dog after herself?". It's true, the dog and her are both named _____. That had never struck me as odd until Herve said it was. In fact, I'd never even NOTICED, although I've known my friend and her dog for years.
I told the anecdote at a party last week, and someone immdiately said that she'd grown up knowing a woman (also unmarried and childless) who was named "Deborah", and who'd, over the years, kept a succession on cats (one at a time), all of which were named "Deborah".....shortened to "Debby" for clarity's sake.
come to consider the matter, I suppose there's nothing remarkably weird about naming beloved animals after one's self, given that it's perfectly respectable to do so to one's children.
Amusedly as ever,\
david terry

Jessie said...

Recently I found a letter written to me by my grandmother two days after my birth. I was named for her -- and her sister. She wrote, "We like your name very much when it comes to the honor conferred on your grandmother -- and your great aunt, BUT I just hope you like your first name better than your Grandma has liked hers. She had a whole family to name her, -- voted on by the crowd. Now you won't hold it against anyone that you got stuck with that name, will you? If you don't like it when you are big, we can sit in the corner and sympathize with each other." I was stunned by this note having never realized that she disliked our mutual name. Did she feel less special because the name was not selected by her parents? Did she dislike being named for an aunt who died in infancy? It is too late now to get answers. She died 35 years ago at the age of 95. And me? I treasure my name -- because I shared it with her -- and her aunt who died to young.

Warren Sly said...

I've often thought of life as involving a river, but I am inclined to see me/us as leaves being carried down a river, skating on the surface. Suddenly puff of wind intervenes and my leaf skips to an entirely new situation on the still flowing river.