Thursday, April 30, 2009

Names and Memories

I started a seminar tonight. It's a sort of book discussion about "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee", by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., but specifically for parents of children with Special Needs.

The Exercise for tonight was as follows:

Thing about your child. How did you select your child's name. Who is your child named after? What would you like your child to know about the person they were named after? What are your child's strengths? What would you like the pserson they were named after to know about your child?

(Brief overview: In Jewish tradition - for those from Eastern Europe - children are named in memory ["after"] deceased relatives. For those from the Mediterranean areas, they are named after living relatives. In both cases, this is done to honor the elder, and hopefully to carry on specific appreciated traits. The custom that my family follows is to use the first letter/sound from the elder's name, but not necessarily the exact same name.)

I had always liked the name Sofia, and I knew that the chances were "good" that I would have to name someone with an "S". My maternal grandmother, Sarah, died when I was in my late 20s.

When I was pregnant with Samuel, my sister was pregnant with the twins. I begged her not to use the name Sofia, although she was free to use the "S" for another name (it is ok to have more than one person named after you). So one of my neices is Julia Sarah.

Samuel was NOT named after Grandma Sarah; he was named after David's grandpa Saul. So when I finally knew I was going ot have my girl, I could use "Sofia".

I chose all my children's names very carefully. You get a Hebrew name and a corresponding Hebrew name - can correspond by letter or by meaning.

Samuel (Shmuel) means "G-d has dedicated. Sam's middle name is Louis (in memory of David's brother Larry). Louis is from the Old Frech, meaning "refuge of the people." In Hebrew his middle name is "Leyb" - well, actually, that's Yiddish, for "lion", but it switches to the Hebrew "Lev" which means "heart".

Micah - "Who is like G-d?", Gabriel (Gavriel) - "G-d is my strength"

Sofia ended up with lots of names. Sofia means "wisdom" in Greek", and her Hebrew name is Shulamit, which means peace,peaceful." Her middle name, after David's other grandpa, Paul, is Phoebe (from the Greek "bright, shining one"), and in Hebrew it's Pelia ("wonder, miracle").

She also has a third name. When I was pregnant with Micah, my other grandma, Doris, had a friend whose family followed the Mediterranean custom and named after a living relative. Thus, I received a phone call: "Listen. I want you to do me a favor. If it's a girl, even if I'm still alive, I want you to name her after me."

Micah wasn't a girl, but by the time Sofia arrived, I realized I needed to honor my grandma's wishes. Sofia Phoebe Daniella ("G-d is my judge") is the full name we bestowed on La Principessa. (Of course, it wasn't good enough for Grandma. "Well, what's the Jewish name" [an old-fashioned way of asking the Hebrew or Yiddish name]? "Daniella". "Well, that's not my name!" Ok, Grandma, remember I only took the first letter...)

So my little girl has Wisdom, Peace, Bright Shining One, Wonder, Miracle, G-d is my Judge. Whew. Nothing like a little name pressure!

Anyway, for tonight's exercise, we went around the room and shared our answers. It was interesting that when we got to "What would you like your child to know about the person they were named after", most named Character Traits. "He was a good person." "He was Kind." "She was very Determined."

For me, it was all about the senses. I wish Sofia could know about Grandma Sarah the following details:

- How her skin felt. (Smooth as silk)
- How she sounded (a very strong Russian/Polish/Yiddish accent)
- The taste of her food (Taiglach Mit Beidlach - Soup with Beans)
- The smell of her home.

Certainly Sofia's strengths are her Personality and her Determination. A friend who had been in EI with us was also at the class, and she kept chiming in with how amazing Sofia is.

But when it came to the last question, "What would you like the person they were named after to know about your child?", it wasn't about how amazing she is. It is how wonderful she is. How valuable she is to me. How it doesn't matter if she does things, or if she doesn't. How important she is to my life, just by being her. How my mother's initial reaction ot the amnio news was SO wrong. How worthwhile my daughter is, just for existing in my life.


Before I went to that seminar tonight, the boys had a Poetry Reading at Barnes & Noble. Each child in the school wrote a poem. Micah - of course - wrote a TWO PAGE poem! And they made the mistake of handing him the microphone...


(He read it very well, actually. But it was seemingly endless.)

I had to leave before Sam's turn, but David said he did well. Poetry Reading night is always stressful, because Sam wants to buy a book that's waaaaay to difficult, and then he spends half an hour with a teacher trying to find one that is more reasonable.