well, for those who don’t know, ruth is named for my maternal grandma who died when i was around 13. by the time i was about 20, i had already planned that if i ever had a daughter one day, i would name her ruth. this might be TMI, but when greg and i were in the throes of trying to conceive in the summer of 2009, actually, when he came to pick me up from maine, he said to me, “let’s make ruth”. the second i found out i was pregnant, we thought it was a girl and we started calling her “ruth”. so, that was easy. as soon as the ultrasound technician spotted her labia up on the black and white screen, the deal was sealed. the only thing left was settling on a middle and last name, which everyone knows, is not nearly as important as a first name.
now, this boy, this son of mine, who i was hoping more than i knew was a girl…what to call him? one of the reasons i didn’t want a boy is because boy names, to put it bluntly, suck. it seems there is a plethora of interesting girls names out there, but no boy names that are any good. greg and i, of course, had a list, and the first thing we did after finding out we were expecting a male child, was to pull it out and go through it. none of the names hit me, though. nothing seemed right.
now, also, for those who don’t know, my father died when i was eighteen, and, one would think, would be the obvious choice for a name sake. i had some problems with that. number one, i already have a daughter named after a beloved deceased relative. how weird would it be for me to have a daughter walking around with my dead grandma’s name and a son with my dead father’s name? i mean, what is this? the dead relatives family? second, i have an older brother who just happens to already be named after my dead father. so, technically, the issue is already taken care of, right? and thirdly, lastly, i don’t like the name all that much. is that terrible to say? i mean, i can just hear my mom getting angry with him over something and saying, in that venomous tone, “timmy!” if i named him after my dad, i could never call him timmy, because that’s what my mom always called my dad. my older brother was known as tj, sometimes tim, so those would be out, leaving me no choice but to call him timothy, and, i’m sorry, but i just can’t call my son by a three syllable name for the rest of my life. nope, not gonna do it.
so, back to the drawing board we went. and, i know what you’re thinking, what’s the rush? the little tyke is still baking in there and won’t be out screaming all of our ears off for a solid four months, a little more. we have all the time in the world to think up and mull over a name. except, i wanted to name him as soon as possible. i used to dabble in dead baby blogs. call it a morbid fascination, or just plain human empathy, but i knew someone, indirectly, who lost a baby, which for some reason, sent me down this path of babylost blog reading for a good few months. anyways, one of the things that people who have lost babies will do, which i never fully understood, is to write their dead babies’ names with different media, like in the sand on a beach or what have you, and take pictures. now i know, oddly enough. it’s to make them as real as possible in this physical world. that’s what i needed with joel. as i said, it was a shock to find out he was a boy to begin with, and i needed to make him concrete in some way to help me to connect with him.
we mulled over names. we made lists. in high school, you write your name with your crushes last name. well, when you are having a baby, you write baby names over and over again. ruth and owen. ruth and charlie. ruth and arthur. arthur alvar nowodworski. charlie alvar nowodworski. paul alvar nowodworski. you see, this time, it was the exact opposite of ruth. we had the middle and last names set. all we needed was a first name, but nothing felt right. and the more i went over, compulsively, the names on my list, the more they all felt like a burden to me. on top of that, i still had a nagging sense that the right thing to do was to name him after my dad.
well, when you are a parent, your marriage takes a back seat to your child-rearing. at least that’s how greg and i are. but every once in a while, you find the strength to yank yourself out of bed and set yourself up in the living room to watch a movie together. which is exactly what greg and i did in the midst of all this boy drama, name obsession. the movie was called, “waiting city”, it could have been a bomb, but it wasn’t. it was good, in that way that actually makes you see your life and situation in a different light and connects you on a deeper level with the person you are watching with. no special reason, i guess. just the right blend of cinematography, plot, soundtrack, what have you. it was about a couple that travels to india to adopt a little girl. both the man and woman were over-actors, but they were foreign, so their poor acting was easier to overlook. plus, i thought that the way that their marriage was portrayed was, in some ways, brutally honest, and right on. i loved all of the footage from india, could almost feel the sweltering heat, smell the city smells. that combined with our christmas lights in the background made for an altered mood, an open mind. as we sat there, watching the credits, the name joel popped up, and greg suggested it. the second he said it, something clicked. what can i say? i’m not too much of a voodoo type person, but it just felt right.
i spent a few more days thinking about it, fighting it, in a way, the way i fought the idea of a boy. i don’t even like the name joel. it is awkward to say. i kept going back and forth, but there was something about it that i liked on a deeper level than aesthetics alone.
so, there you have it. joel’s name story. the way ruth and joel’s names came about couldn’t be more different. but here they both are: my children. one: exactly what we hoped for, exactly what we expected. a ruth from the pre-beginning. the other surprising us at every turn.