Friday, August 10, 2001

How do you tell the woman you love, the soul-mate you will spend all of eternity eating breakfast with, the heart's desire you trust with all your life decisions, from when you were married to where you'll be buried, and in which suit, . . . how do you tell her she's wrong? I know my wife is never wrong; I have been married long enough and often enough to have that slate-solid tenet sewn into the sinew of my soul. But sometimes even the queen of my dreams can make a small mistake, a minor lapse in her goddess-brilliant infallibility, creating a snag in our life's fabric we can simply fold over and safety pin -- painting the house flamingo pink; switching our 401k's to; the 10" high Cal Ripken tattoo on her belly ... these are mere gravel in the road, we can roll right over then look back in our golden years and laugh 'til we're wet. I have never doubted my wife, I have yoked my oxen to hers and she has plowed us straight and true. Until now.

We are about to have a baby. Yes, to be more specific she is about to have a baby, and I understand there is a lot more involved for her than for me. I realize she has earned some extra privileges and perks, and what once was considered foreplay is now my nightly duty as cook/masseur/pillow-fluffer – and I’m okay with that! But I have read the indexes of 20 baby books and can find no mention of the mother’s inalienable right to choose the most inane name possible for her (our!) baby boy. She tried to tell me it was a Constitutional amendments. She enlisted the aid of the enemy, mother and mother-in-law both. She withheld affectionate attention (but at this point in her “re-shaping” it wasn’t the most effective punishment). She watched the Lifetime channel 27 straight days. She cried. Yet I stand firm, resolute against the onslaught:

Leonardo. Cameron. Trystan, Bryce, Keenan. Avery, Ashton, Brandon. Les.

This is not a decision to be entered into lightly. The repercussions of which specific letters we write in a very specific order on the birth certificate will both pave the way and follow as a ship’s wake our son’s every step. Not a day will go by without someone speaking his name, with affection, love, tenderness, or in anger, frustration, passion – certainly with respect, perhaps in awe. His name will be cooed, whispered, shouted and sputtered; sung out loud and spoken breathlessly; shouted from the back porch doorway, scrunched and jumbled with his brothers’ names. The name we choose will be twisted and turned, abbreviated and mis-pronounced, rhymed in the silliest, meanest, nastiest possible ways. His name will define him and explain him. It must suit him, rest comfortably, yet securely, upon his shoulders.

Austyn, Dusty, JayDen. Chauncey, Kelby, Marque.

There are very important questions to be asked here: Would you call the Commander-in-Chief, the most powerful man on the planet, Trystan? (No, you would call him “Mr. President, Sir,” but would you want the First Lady of our great nation climbing into bed at night with Wesley?) Would you want the winning touchdown of the Super Bowl thrown by Ashton? Who do you prefer single-handedly annihilate the international terrorists – Desi? Phineas? Willard? And what on earth is a person thinking when they decide on Richard? My son needs a name I can shout proudly from the sideline, crow at the science fair, chant at the recital. He needs a name that fits perfectly with “Hey, it’s _______ ‘s Dad!” He needs a boy’s name, and a man’s name. He needs his name.

Dylan. Daniel. Jonah, Jace, Jacob. Sean, Brett, Noah. Ryan.

So we continue to read the books, poll our friends and compare our lists. We read billboards and election posters, and actually listen closely when the waiter says his name. We watch the movie credits frame by frame. Warren, Francis, Chevy? We may just wait until he’s here with us, so we can hold him in our arms and look into his eyes, and ask him what the kids at school call him.