Thursday, March 31, 2011

About his name...

Brooke today posted a beautiful piece about her daughter Eliza's name, and it sparked a rather lengthy comment over there, but I liked writing about his name so much that I decided to repost my comment here.

If you care to, please feel free to share the story of your child/children's name in my comments - and I hope I don't offend anyone with the names we decided against.

What follows is my comment:

I apologize in advance for what is likely to be a very lengthy comment.

Otis came to his name in much the same way Eliza did.  I am a teacher, and my husband has worked with high school kids doing drama workshops on and off for about 15 we had LOTS of names ruled out for the same reasons you and D did.

Then, also, because we are some of the last of our friends to have children, many of them took some of our favorites.  My best friend and I barely recovered when she named her daughter Talulah, a name that I had called "dibs" on back in 1980 when I first saw Jody Foster in Bugsy Malone...we couldn't believe that we hadn't discussed my extreme attachment to that name. (I sometimes still think she is lying that she didn't know.)

So thank goodness we were having a boy, because there would be no Talulah problem.

But we wanted something uncommon, but not crazy-California hippy style (I was also a yoga teacher, so I couldn't do something so predictable as Shanti or Rain or River or Blyss -- not that I EVER would, but still...)  I also grew up in Berkeley with a fair share of Rainbows, Sunshines, Miracles, even a Rapunzel and a Vahjeena (seriously.)

So we were at a standstill for a long time.  Otis jumped out very early on as a favorite for both of us, but we were kind of surprised that we both loved it so much.

But it held up under all our tests - just like you did for Eliza...We could see him being a rock star or a professor at Yale.  Being a very cute toddler and an equally handsome groom at his wedding.  Smart, funny, quirky, but also old fashioned.  With some soul.  We joked about naming him Otis Redding N___ [our last name] but instead settled on giving him my dad's name as his middle name: Allen.  My dad passed away three years earlier and I very much wanted to honor him as I named my firstborn.

It was awkward because both of our dogs have O names - Oliver and Oswald - and we never ever wanted to be *that* family with matching initials - and we almost didn't name Otis Otis for that reason - but in the end, we loved it too much.

I listened to lots of Otis Redding through my pregnancy and fell more in love with the name.  Every time we got in an elevator and saw the name Otis we smiled.

I have had some of the same sadness, knowing that I never get to have a LIVE Otis.  I never get to see his name on a business card, on a diploma, on a speeding ticket, on a mother's day card.  I don't get to hear his friends calling for him on the playground.  I don't get to hear a girl calling for him on the phone for the first time, giggles in the background, "May I speak to Otis?"

It breaks my heart.  I love his name so much.  And at the same time, I love that HE has that name.  He is none other than Otis.

Now of course as we face the possibility of a second, we are stupefied.  How could we ever pick a name as perfect as Otis?  (Not to mention that Milo has also always been a favorite of mine, but Milo and Otis?  Geez, it makes me gag just thinking about it.)

We have a chalkboard painted onto one of the walls in our home.  During my pregnancy with Otis, we kept a running tally of names that we liked, along with some clear joke names as well, in bright colored chalk.  All the names are still there: Blaze, Peregrine, Nutello, (all jokes, btw) and right across the middle of the board, in big capital letters, stands OTIS.  I don't know that we'll ever erase that board.  We have photos of my pregnant belly silhouetted alongside the chalkboard, the biggest spot lining perfectly up with the O in his name.

Brooke, thanks for letting me write this all here, so much of what you wrote resonated perfectly  - our perfect children really did have the most perfect names.


LauraJane said...

Otis is a fabulous name, for a fabulous little boy. :) I love your "tests" as well- my husband does the handshake trick, as in tries on the name like, "Nice to meet you, I'm ______", followed by "oh, that's amazing, perfect, I love it", or "it can never be". haha

I love the name Milo. Also, have you thought about Oscar? I LURVE that name but I have a cousin with a son named Oscar.

I also hear you on Talulah- so pretty. I'm crushing hard on the name Cecilia- as in, "Cecilia, you're breaking my heart. You're shaking my confidence daily".. LOVE. My husband however, thinks of the lyrics, "making love in the afternoon with Cecilia, up in my bedroom" and dislikes it. boo.

sarah said...

Laura Jane, too funny - our nephew (E's sister's son) is named Oscar (thus adding to the O confusion) and my other nephew (my brother's son) is Octavio. We really have played out all our O options.

Cecilia is one of my FAVORITE names - not to mention that my favorite favorite student that I work with, who is in 8th grade, is named Cecilia and would FLIP (in a good way) if I ever got to name a daughter that. It's actually probably a contender if we end up with a girl, I'd say. I hear you on the "making love in the afternoon" part - but I think that song is old enough that maybe it wouldn't get sung TOO often to her?

Sherri said...

Kristen was a name I'd thought of and pretty much discarded.. I liked Caitlyn better actually. We didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl... Carter has always been our favorite for a boy. Anyway, in the moment when I was holding her, and looking at her, and Ken was on the phone, it just came out... "I want to call her Kristen Eva" Ken agreed, I think he would have agreed to any name in that moment, just because he knew what I was going through, and because he couldn't be there. So Kristen she'll always be. Maybe Caitlyn is still waiting to arrive.... who knows.

Sherri said...

And I love the name Otis by the way... I picture such a cute little boy when I think of that name!

Missy said...

Every time I get on the elevator at my legal representation's office I see Otis etched in gold and I think of you. One day I will remember my camera and snap a photo for you. Chai was the hub's birth name. We never decide on a middle name, so he didn't get one :( I love reading Otis' name story. I'll have to pop on over and read Brooke's too! Love to you mama~

One Crazy Mommy said...

I have Matilda Ann picked out for a girl, and William Isaiah for a boy.

Lori said...

Otis Allen is such an awesome name. It feels good to say out loud. Love love love it. x

Heather said...

I also think of your Otis whenever I'm in an elevator. I LOVE the name Otis, as well as Oscar and Cecilia (more on that later).

We do Scandinavian names, and our son was to be Henrik (after Oskar got vetoed). Originally Henrik Gerald, after my husband's grandpa Jerry. We found out a week before Henrick was born that Jerry's name really was Ole. My husband had NO idea. We also spelled the first name incorrectly the day he was born. He was stillborn at 27 weeks after a sudden illness, and when my husband verified with me that he spelled the name correctly, H-e-n-r-i-c-k seemed right. I didn't notice that we spelled it wrong until we got some kind of formal notice (death, social security?) in the mail a week later. So, Henrik Gerald became Henrick Ole, and thinking of that has always made me smile.

Interestingly, our older daughter is named Silje, which is the Norwegian variant of Cecilia and is pronounced SEEL-yuh. I've always sung the Simon and Garfunkel song to her, but have changed the lyrics to "hanging out in the afternoon with Cecilia up in my bedroom".

Hope's Mama said...

Oh, names. I think I've written my own post on names. I'll have to find a link. Needless to say, it is a topic that tugs at my heart strings as I'll forever wonder if I made the right decision, and there will always be pangs of regret. Hope was never to be her name and in an act of hormonal and grief induced stress, we didn't use the name that she was always, always going to have if she was a girl. I thought I could save it and reuse it. Now I'm not sure, if I was ever lucky enough to have a girl again, if I could. That was supposed to be her name. She was supposed to live. That name feels as dead and buried as she does, yet I love it so much.
Ugh, names. But I do love this post, and I very, very much love Otis' name. If you like Angus, and this one is a boy, go right ahead!!

hayley said...

Otis is such a lovely name and seemed to fit that big boy. when I was a kid me and my sister loved this William Bell Otis Redding tribute song "A tribute to a king". I don't know if you know it, when your Otis died I played it again. it's about a different life of course but I like it.

love h.x

zubeldia said...

Otis just fits so perfectly. We still have Otis spelled out on the fridge with his photo, too. I don't think that'll ever change, and when we move he'll come with us.

Another fan of Oscar here, and it's definitely a contender for us in the future. But Cecelia is lovely. I had a lovely student with that name.. So funny how old students can make you love/hate a name.

Love, A

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful post Sarah.. I especially love the image in my mind of your chalkboard. It really has stuck with me all day.
Sending you love...

book fish said...

Loved your post. It didn't strike me until you mentioned the 'lift'. Next time am in a lift am surely going to think of you and your son.

Lani said...

so crazy, the friends across the street from us have 2 boys- Oscar & Otis. Love both names. They originally names Otis, Roan but changed it when he was 2 weeks old! so crazy.

we are struggling with names for this little guy- we LOVED Silas Orion, best name ever and so heartbroken over it. Though it fits his memory well. Everyone looks to the fall/winter night sky, sees Orion and thinks of him.

So we don't want trendy or common or weird. we should be emailing some name suggestions to each other (and Milo is so on my list but Chris does not like it!)