Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20. Names

My two girls have literary names. Actually, I'm going to go ahead and say all three of my children have literary names. Like on Law and Order, here are their stories.

My oldest's middle name is Esme, for my favorite Salinger story, "For Esme, with Love and Squalor" about a precocious young girl, an English orphan, who writes to the narrator, a sergeant in WWII who has had a mental breakdown. She writes "from a land of triple exclamation points and inaccurate observations" and is the thread that obviously brings the narrator back from the brink. It's a heartbreaking little story, nothing more than a glimpse.

My oldest's first name is Sophia, which turned out to be the 6th most popular name for girls the year she was born. This annoyed me and I was determined to not do it again with my second child. I went through a book of Irish baby names, circling all the ones I liked. My husband went through and crossed out all the ones he didn't, and we were left with one name: Maeve.

For a middle name, I couldn't find something I liked well enough. The blunt sound of Maeve called for something interesting. Sitting in the little loft library above my front hall, I glanced up at the shelves while fighting pregnancy insomnia. The collection of Beatrix Potter. Beatrix. With an x.

Knowing that my third baby was my last, and my only boy, he has three names. He shares his father's first name, but does not go by it. He goes by his first middle name, Leo, which is a quadruple family name--on four different branches, most recently my husband's uncle who died right before I got pregnant). His other middle name is Cassidy, which isn't technically literary, except that I'm a latter-day deadhead and I think the Grateful Dead writes some damned fine poetry, including "Cassidy". Thank you Bob Weir.

Fare thee well now, let your life proceed by it's own design.
Nothing to tell now, let the words be yours, I'm done with mine.


  1. I was at a workshop once where, by way of introduction, we were asked to state our name(s) and then tell the group how we came by those name(s). Your children would have had something interesting to share in that regard.

    And I so like that Salinger bit about "writing from a land of triple exclamation points and inaccurate observations." That story has now been added to my "to read" list. (And what a great title.)

  2. I do love this. I can also related top not wanting to choose popular names. When I was fifteen, in my music class, 50% of the class was called Linda! (Three of the six in the class.)

  3. Wow -- Daniel "Lemmony Snicket" Handler has a character named Esme Squalor in several of his "Unfortunate Events" books. I had no idea it came from anywhere other than his mind.

    My son's middle name, Lewis, is based on CS Lewis and Sinclair Lewis -- favorite authors of mine and my husband.

  4. I read all of Salinger in binge c. 1970. I remember the Esme title well, but had forgotten what the story was about. I should probably re-read his shorts; I do remember how much I liked them.

    Both my daughters were given family names as middle names, a practice I've always liked despite the fact that because my middle name is Campbell I was called "Susan Soup" in elementary school.

  5. You know how I feel about Cassidy. A coworker of Tim's (they are both artists/designers) inscribed those very two lines into a beautiful blank book she gave him when she parted.

  6. You did give them good names. Maeve was on a short list for us if one of the boys had been a girl, but so was Hannah which morphed into a terribly common name after Duncan was born. I was a Kim in a classroom of Kims -- Kim Novak was the hot actress of 1957-59!