A Naming Story
The child was born to a couple of adjunct professors during their semester recess. The child came out easy and quiet as the epidural slid in between her mother’s vertebrae, which is to say, not very. But she didn’t cry when the old gray-haired nurse tapped her behind with a firm palm. She didn’t cry when she was rubbed clean with a microfiber cloth.
The newborn child looked at the gray-bright room and her new parents with wonder, at her father who kept adding unnecessary patches to the sports coat that he wore even under his scrubs, and, at her mother, dressed in white, even in the delivery room, in the handwritten birth plan she’d insisted, like Emily Dickinson!
Because the father kept a particular interest in the Dewey Decimal System, and because he was a radical thinker, and because his wife would shoot him down hard, the father wanted to name the child “000-001” both because the child was their first and 000-001 was the Dewey designation for Knowledge.
Because the mother taught Romantic and Victorian poetry, and because she kept a chest full of worn Beatrix Potter books, and because she studied the often misunderstood, or worse, forgotten, she wanted to name the child Virginia both after her great-grandma but also Virginia Woolf.
As adjuncts in English, the mother and the father both wanted to be sure they gave their child not merely a good name, but more important, the right name. The hospital recommended the couple stay their first night in the room together. Later that night, after the child was taken to the nursery, both discussed the importance of a title.
The father wore a plaid sleeping set, strange against the stark hospital bed. He chewed the eraser off 10 Ticonderoga pencils, and philosophed that a name could influence one’s life path, that the difference between a Kim and a Kimberly was far greater than five characters.
This made the mother nervous. She wore a white gown and white elastic bandages around her midsection and held close to her phone, to Google. She’d taken anxiety medication and her body was exhausted but her mind still ran wild. She had privately spent three years naming her first poem; it was that hard a task for her.
The next morning, after a sleepless night, the father and the mother dressed in the dark, in the sterile hospital room like a mausoleum. They collected the child, a sleeping pink bundle, her little mooncrest fingernails covered in white mittens. A nurse wheeled the mother to the car, then promptly left them alone. The father’s foot shook as he parked them in a shaded section of the hospital lot. The mother dressed their daughter in white and held her against her chest and they all breathed together and laughed together and cried together because after all their lives spent naming things over and over again, all of this was so damn new.
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