As 2013 winds up, the media remind us of the year’s top news stories and of the celebrities and leaders we lost. But I have a personal New Year’s Eve tradition that dates back two decades – before I had children and was still unsure whether I wanted to be a parent.
I was working with the Vital Statistics office, which maintains records of annual births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Every year we published a document with pages of statistics and one page of trivia.
The trivia page included information such as the ages of the youngest bride and the youngest groom; the ages of the oldest bride and the oldest groom; the longest marriage ending in divorce, etc. The page also contained a list of the top 20 baby names of the year: 10 for boys and the 10 for girls.
The lists fascinated me because, if you followed them year after year, they really demonstrated shifts in culture.
Which is why, every New Year’s Eve, I always spend a little time looking over the lists of popular baby names.
And every year, those lists make me smile.
Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes Day 173: Family Acceptance Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song Day 170: Positive People Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids Day 168: Jealous Pets Day 167: Family Christmas Recipes Day 166: Church BellsDay 165: School Holiday 164: Unexpected Grace Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control Day 162: Anticipating a good story Day 161: Hope Day 160: When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment Day 159: Surprises in the Mail Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial Day 157: A Garage on Winter Days Day 156: Real Christmas Trees Day 155: Being a Parent Day 154: Selfless People Day 153: Nelson Mandela Day 152: Memorable Road Trips Day 151: Great Neighbors Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself Day 149: Love Letters Day 148: The first day of Advent Day 147: The Breakfast Club Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude Day 144: Watching My Dog Play Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met Day 142: When Our Children Become Role Models Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness Day 140; People Watching Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage Day 136: Postcards from Heaven Day 135: Mickey Mouse Day 134: Generous Souls Day 133: I’m Moving On Day 132: A Family That is Really Family Day 131: A Personal Motto Day 130: Mork and Mindy Day 129: The Bears’ House Day 128: Veterans Day 127: Doppelgangers Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky Day 124: When History Repeats Itself Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122: Helen Keller Day 121: The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song Day 120: Sheldon Cooper Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends Day 117: Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season Day 115; Life Experience Day 114: Changes Day 113: The Wooly Bear Caterpillar Day 112: The National Anthem Day 111: Parents Who Care Day 110: Good Friends Day 109: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss Day 108: A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades Day 105: The Peanuts Gang Dancing Day 104: Sharing a Secret Language Day 103: The Electric Company Day 102: Doing the Right Thing Day 101: When Siblings Agree Day 100: Being Optimistic Day 99: Trying Something New Day 98: The Sound of Children on a Playground Day97: Good Advice Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy Day 95: The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94: Accepting Change Day 93: True Love Day 92: Camera Phones Day 91: Bicycle Brakes Day 90: HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square Day 88: The Grand Canyon Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human Day 84: Captain Underpants Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Day 80: The Outsiders Day 79: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting Day 75: Improvements Day 74: Family Traditions Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes Day 72: Live Music Day 71: Sleeping In Day 70: Grover Day 69: A Good Hair Day Day 68: A Sense of Community Day 67: Kindness Day 66: Living in a Place You Love Day 65: Gifts from the Heart Day 64: The Arrival of Fall Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird Day 62: Green LightsDay 61: My Canine Friends Day 60: Differences Day 59: A New Box of Crayons Day 58: Bookworms Day 57: Being Oblivious Day 56: Three-day Weekends Day 55: A Cat Purring Day 54: Being a Unique Individual Day 53: Children’s Artwork Day 52: Lefties Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer Day 50: Campfires Day 49: Childhood Crushes Day 48: The Words “Miss You” Day 47: Birthday Stories Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us Day 45: Play-Doh Day 44: First Day of School Pictures Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes Day 42: Appreciative Readers Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote Day 40: Being Silly Day 39: Being Happy Exactly Where You Are Day 38: Proud Grandparents Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want Day 34: Accepting the Fog Day 33: I See the Moon Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap Day 31: Perspective Day 30: Unlikely Friendships Day 29: Good Samaritans Day 28: Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet? Day 27: Shadows Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads Day 25: When Harry Met Sally Day 24: Hibiscus Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck Day 22: The Wonderful World of Disney Day 21: Puppy love Day 20 Personal Theme Songs Day 19: Summer Clouds Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17: A Royal Birth Day 16: Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter Day 12: Round Bales of HayDay 11: Water Fountains for Dogs Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay 7: Finding the missing sock Day 6: Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment Day 4: Jumping in Puddles Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street
The coincidence was just too great.
In the same week that I was engaged in a conversation in which the phrase “they used to call him Bubba, but now we just call him Jim” was uttered, I ran across a news article about how your name might impact your entire life.
To be honest, I didn’t really read the article, and my immediate reaction to the whole Bubba and Jim conversation was that those words would make great lyrics for a country song.
But the two incidents must have stuck in my head because I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. And I haven’t given so much thought to names since I gave birth to my daughter nine years ago.
Like most expectant parents, my husband and I spent a great deal of time agonizing over baby names. I say most parents, because I’m always amazed at those who obviously didn’t put a lot of thought into possible disasters when it comes to initials, potentially embarrassing nicknames and disastrous first and last name combinations. My husband and I took all of those into account.
Not that we were prepared to let anyone else in on our personal deliberations before either of our children actually arrived. Before our son was born and people were asking what his name would be, our response was that we hadn’t quite yet decided between Fyvush Finkel and Deuteronomy. We did clarify that if we selected Deuteronomy, we’d call him Dute due to our tendencies to call everyone Dude anyway.
I’m not sure if anyone actually believed us, but a few still scratched their heads when we named him Shepherd. We even had one woman who insisted that we were mistaken and his name was actually Gabriel Shepherd – not Shepherd Gabriel. I have no clue why she thought we didn’t know our own child’s name, but I had long since figured out that people just live within their own paradigms with no hope of escape.
I’ll never forget having just filled out a form at a doctor’s office when I got called back up to the front desk. The woman motioned for me to lean in so I could hear her whisper, “Honey, spouse means your husband. You shouldn’t have put your daddy’s name on that line.”
It took me a minute before I could even find the words to tell her that I had put my husband’s name on that line, we just had different last names. Based on the look she gave me, she obviously thought I was simply covering up. The look I gave her wasn’t nearly as sympathetic.
I had, after all, been dealing with such chronically confused people for years.
When I was getting married, I worked with woman who simply could not understand why I was not taking my husband’s last name. One day, she walked into my office with a big smile on her face. “I figured it out,” she exclaimed.
“Figured what out?” I asked.
“Why you aren’t changing your name,” she said, as if I should know that was the biggest mystery to ever hit our office.
“Or really,” I asked. “Why’s that?”
“Because your last name begins with a B and his last name starts with an S,” she said. “This way, you can stay at the top of the alphabet.”
I couldn’t think of a response. I guess I could have told her that my identify was tied more to my name than to my future husband, but I knew that concept was well beyond her.
But my belief that our identity is tied up with our names has continued. How could I think anything else with a mom named Evadna and a husband named Giles? That’s why, with a last name of Snyder, I wanted make sure my kids didn’t have the same name that hundreds of others did.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, my dog didn’t fare as well. While our entire family fell in love with him the first time we met him, we didn’t all agree on his name. His foster family had temporarily named him Rodney after the animal control officer that picked him up. I just didn’t think the name fit a German Shepherd.
My kids, on the other hand, had other ideas. “How would you like it if someone kept changing your name?” they asked.
O.K., they had a point. And Rodney kept his name.
I admit, I do think it’s better than Bubba or Jim. And “A Dog Named Rodney” might also be great title for a country song.