I love naming babies. We are probably done with that, and still I visit websites to scroll through the splendid names waiting for the right baby. Leopold, anyone? Or Margot? I like watching a child grow into her name. I like finding all of the different iterations of the name, the nicknames, the rhymes. I like how the name usually tells something about the family — traditional, nonconformist, close-knit. I know that some people don’t go this deeply into it — most people, probably — but I do. I will miss trying to match a name to a baby and a bouquet of dreams.
Eleanor was nearly named Molly. I spent most of my pregnancy calling her that. Who wouldn’t love Molly Muthler? Toward the end of my pregnancy, I began to fret. Molly was too cute. I wanted something more bookish, something more, perhaps, presidential. We toyed with Jane for a bit, so trim and strong. But I had always disliked my name for its lack of nicknames, and Jane had the same problem. Greg and I both liked Eleanor, and the name felt perfect for the book-loving, cardigan-wearing kid of our dreams. We could call her Ellie Jane for short, I thought. Except she came out a total Eleanor, not an Ellie.
Genevieve was always Genevieve’s name. I offered it up shortly after we learned I was pregnant. Greg furrowed his brow and said he didn’t know how to spell it. He was right. It broke one of our hard rules. The name had to be easy for strangers to spell because Muthler most definitely is not. We tried others. Greg liked Clara. I kept thinking how weird the introductions would be. “Hi, I’m Sarah, and this is Clara.” We liked Claire also, but it felt a bit simple next to Eleanor. Particularly because we were having another girl, I wanted both kids to feel that they had gotten similar treatment in the name department. Greg declared Iris too hippie. I thought it quaintly Victorian. So we were back to Genevieve. Greg decided that he liked the name enough that he would learn to spell it. I know that if she were here she would have become a great, spunky Genevieve.
You would think that Henry’s name would have been easy. We’d already had two pregnancies to toss around boy names. We’d decided on Henry long before. And then some friends of ours had a Henry, so we scrapped it. I loved Oliver but could already feel my tongue tying as I tried out “Eleanor, Oliver!” We dabbled with Thomas, but it felt too common. We had cousins, uncles, dentists named Thomas. Greg was very taken with Thaddeus, particularly after we watched the movie “Lincoln.” A Thaddeus Muthler would either love or hate his name. There could be no in-between. Then there was Barnaby. Oh, Barnaby. So spunky. So beautifully echoing Gregory. And so likely to embarrass our child for his whole life. If only we had lived in Britain. Finally, we had to go back to Henry. And then August. A name that we had always liked. And also, the month after July, which is now the hardest month. August was our new beginning. Plus, this kid is such a Gus.
I could almost have another just to choose a name. Perhaps I should take up novel-writing.