What’s in a Name?

7 Apr

Dearest Baby Girl,

I am about to scream. The only thing preventing me from doing so is the fact that you are strapped to my chest, fast asleep. I dare not wake monsters. Or babies. I am about to scream because just as I had two paragraphs written about how I was rejected from SF State’s MFA program and how your dad inadvertantly deleted my last (nearly complete, and hugely personal) blog post…my current blog post up and disappeared. Yes, writing and I are going through a rough patch. At times like these I figure I have to decide whether the universe is telling me I suck and to give up or if it’s telling me that I better learn to persevere through piddly crap like this if I ever expect to get published. I guess I’ll go with the latter…but that’s another blog post.

The last blog I wrote you was about our family. The Watts family, that is. Actually it was kind of a depressing post about how many of my family members who I assumed would be over the moon to get a peak at you have not even mentioned coming to visit nearly two months after your birth. You don’t need to read about that. Nobody does really. If in 15 years you have some burning desire to know my thoughts on the subject, just ask me. I make sure to carefully file away rejections in the back of my mind for many years. Instead of that post I thought I’d write about your name; a very special but not so heated subject.

Your full name is Ophelia Catherine Watts Reggiardo- one first name, two middle names and one last name. In that order. Yes, I realize that many will think I’m cruel or selfish for giving you such a lengthy name. But those people make me laugh. First of all, they have underestimated the mental capacity of my daughter. I have no doubt that by two and a half you’ll be able to recite your entire name with perfect diction to anyone that asks for it. I am very verbal, your dad is very verbal. You cannot escape it. Secondly, the names we gave you are a gift, each one chosen because it means something to us and we hope it will mean something to you.

Ophelia. Origin: Greek. Meaning: Helper. Odd as it seems, while I was studying Hamlet in college the name Ophelia never popped out at me as a potential baby name though it’s one of my favorite Shakespearean plays. Maybe that’s because the character herself is quite tragic. I just remember that oneday before I was even pregnant with you I asked your dad, “Hey, how about the name Ophelia for a girl?” Your dad was used to these kinds of questions and I was used to his standard reaction of scrunching up his face and stating a decisive “Nah.” But this time he said “I like it.” The only other names that came remotely close to getting that reaction were Violet, Theta and Penelope. When we told your Aunt Mary about the name Penelope she threw a fit like you wouldn’t believe and swore up and down that Penelope was HER name for HER future daughter. Of course this only gave your dad more reason to act like it was our top choice. We decided not to officially name you until we met you but I think we both knew all along that you would be Ophelia. I feel like I knew it even before we knew you were a girl. There are plenty of beautiful names out there that I loved (and still do) but we knew that you deserved a unique and unusual name. You deserve a name that won’t get lost amongst the crowd. I know you will be the type of person that is difficult to forget. Your name had to match that. And thus, you are Ophelia. Often you are just O. Or Baby O, which Aunt Mary likes to call you. When I hear your name I am proud but I remind myself that maybe you won’t love it as much as we do. Maybe you will be like I was as a kid when I decided Jennifer was a horrible name because it had the word “fur” in it and it made me sound hairy. But at least you will know why we thought you needed such a unique name and love us anyway.

Your middle name is Catherine, for your late great-aunt, Catherine Mountjoy. I wish all the time that she could see you and hold you and most of all that you could know her like I did. She was a brilliant woman, fluent in multiple languages, a supreme Scrabble player, a librarian, a wife, a mother. My own life and passions were influenced by her in so many ways and I am still mourning the fact that there are so many questions I will never be able to ask her. Now that I am a mother I wish even more that she was here to give that advice and to share in the joy of knowing you. You will get to know her through your grandpa, Uncle Daniel, cousins Ashlin and Gabe and through me. But I still struggle with how colossally unfair it is that you will never meet her so I wanted something permanent of hers for you. That’s why I gave you her name.

Watts is your second middle name as well as my maiden name and current middle name. Until I met your dad I was adament that if and when I got married I would keep the name Watts. I won’t say that when we met I suddenly had a change of heart and decided I desperately needed to be a Reggiardo. The truth is it pissed me off that your dad wanted me to change my name. I remember us fighting about it mere weeks after we started dating (Yup, that’s when he told me he wanted to marry me. We move fast around these parts.) But I saw some problems with having a different last name than my spouse. What about our children? I truly dislike hyphenated last names and I wasn’t about to give you some strange hybrid like Weggiardo or Regatts. Your dad, for being the NPR-listening, Obama-loving, tax-cut-hating liberal he is, is awfully conservative in his personal life and I knew he would never give up his own last name. Yeah, that pissed me off even more. I can’t say what officially made me decide to take Reggiardo as my last name but I know that I didn’t do it for me, I did it for your father. Some might call it an act of weakness and indict me as an anti-feminist (um, yeah right) but in some ways I’m very proud of my decision. I am not always known for my flexibility and softness. I can be downright pigheaded at times. But this time I took a different path. But I kept Watts as my middle name because it’s very much a part of my identity. And now it’s your name too. And guess what? Your dad took it as a second middle name too. See, I still got my way a little bit 🙂

Reggiardo. I’m sorry my love, but you will be spelling this name for everyone that you meet until the end of time. Nobody can pronounce it correctly and even your own grandmother could not spell it for the longest time. But it’s a good name and I am proud to give it to you since it reminds me of the wonderful family I married into. Your Granny Mimi I’m sure can tell you about your Reggiardo ancestors and well as the ancestors from her side of the family. As she once told me, it might be nice to pretend your entire lineage is about ravioli but it just isn’t the case. Yes, you’ve got a big chunk of Italian in you, both from me and from your dad, but you are also English, Austrian, German, Polish and Cajun. Don’t forget that just because your name sounds like a pasta dish.

Somehow I feel like this blog barely skims the surface of my thoughts on your name but it will have to do for now. Here are some pictures of your recent adventures.

Ophelia and Grandma in PML

Too cute for words

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One Response to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Jan Mountjoy April 8, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    What a wonderful silique to Ophelia re her name and family. I really loved reading it and I am sure she will too someday when she is old enough. Your Facebook communications and Cindy’s keep us in touch with the Watts family.
    Love to all,
    Jan and Bob

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