October 28, 2011

For Edna & Mildred

I found this poem in the bathroom at work, in a 1994 issue of the Utne Reader. The theme of the magazine is Coffee, which is apropo for a Grounds for Health bathroom. But this poem has nothing to do with coffee. But instead names, and how hearty names from the yesteryear are fading out. Although, 17 years later, I wonder if the author, Hunt Hawkins would still feel the same way. A former co-worker just named her son Jasper, which narrowly beat out Wyatt...

What the poem did for me was bring up a name dilemma I've been having. My "husband" (still getting used to the term!) and I definitely want kids, and relatively soon. If it were up to Ry, he'd have babies yesterday. But we've already picked out our baby names! It took us about 4 minutes for both a solid boys name and a girls name. While this is great, and I love both the names, I'm conflicted because it was too easy. No pouring over name books. No reading the Social Security Name List. No lists at all. Just quick agreement and decision.

I fear we may be missing out of 9 months worth of fun! And debating, and research, and ranking, and creativity. Is this parental naivete? Where other actual parents would say "you're crazy! a) you'll have plenty to do during the 9 months and b) you should probably have 5 names lined up b/c he/she might just not look like a Zephyr or an Ebert..." Or something like that.

I also just heard of a superstition from Bravo TV and fashion's Rachel Zoe, who just had a baby, and they didn't want ANYTHING baby-related in their house before the baby was born just in case "it didn't work out". I imagine having the name picked out before I'm even pregnant is a big no-no. And I'm already mildly concerned that I can't have kids, for no reason other than hypochondria.

To make matters worse, I also can't but help to jinx the jinx by blabbing about the names we've chosen to friends and perfect strangers because I'm so excited! I just can't keep my mouth shut (although I will choose to on this blog until further notice).

So I think we're screwed, any way you look at it.

But, it's a nice poem, so enjoy (and our future daughter's name is not in here, but let me tell you, it, too, is a dying name...)

For Edna & Mildred
Mourning the dying American female names

In the Altha Diner on the Florida panhandle
a stocky white-haired woman
with a plastic nameplate "Mildred"
gently turns my burger, and I fall into grief.
I remember the long, hot drives to North Carolina
to visit Aunt Alma, who put up quarts of peaches,
and my grandmother Gladys with her pieced quilts.
Many names are almost gone: Gertrude, Myrtle,
Agnes, Bernice, Hortense, Edna, Doris and Hilda.
They were wide women, cotton-clothed, early rising.
You had to move your mouth to say their names,
and they meant strength, spear, battle, and victory.
When did women stop being Saxons and Goths?
What frog Fate turned them into Alison, Melissa,
Valerie, Natalie, Adrienne, and Lucinda,
diminish them to Wendy, Cindy, Suzy, and Vicky?
I look at these young women
and hope they are headed for the presidency,
but I fear America has other plans in mind,
that they be no longer at war
but subdued instead in amorphous corporate work,
somebody's assistant, something in a bank,
single parent with word-processing skills.
They must have been made French
so they could be cheap foreign labor.
Well, all I can say is,
Good luck to you
Kimberly, Darlene, Cheryl, Heather, and Amy.
Good luck April, Melanie, Becky, and Kelly.
I hope it goes well for you.
But for a moment let us mourn.
Now is the time to say good-bye
to Florence, Muriel, Ethel, and Thelma.
Good-bye Minnie, Ada, Bertha, and Edith.
~Hunt Hawkins, The Domestic Life, the University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994

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