The Name

January 15, 2010

My daughter has some decisions to make about her soon-to-be married name.  Her fiancé’s got one of those combo deals, separated by a hyphen. As family lore goes, great grandpa and great grandma had a baby out of wedlock (I could be off a generation or two). To keep the villagers from rioting, great grandpa and great grandma decided the baby would take on a his-and-her surname.  Eventually, the love child with two last names grew and had sons of his own, and those sons had sons, until one day my future son-in-law was born.  By the time the name reached M’s generation, the hyphen had weakened. M uses only the name that falls to the left of the hyphen. He has brothers who go exclusively by the name that falls to the right. His mother uses only the first initial of each last name, abandoning the hyphen altogether.

K was faced with a similar decision when we got married. She had to decide what her last name would be. As we were filling out the marriage license, I watched in bewilderment as K wrote down my last name as her new name.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Don’t even go there. I’m taking your last name,” she said.

“Why? I don’t even like my last name. You have an incredible opportunity to choose any name in the world. Why are you picking mine?”

“I’m taking your name! Discussion over!”

To this day I’ve never understood her decision. Whenever I hear my wife’s name coupled with my last name, I wonder, who?

I should have seen the signs that day that we were completely incompatible.  Sometime after we were married, and before K was pregnant with our first child, I decided I liked the name “Aegis”. K hated it.

“If our first child is a girl,” I proclaimed, “We will call her Aegis.”

“No we won’t,” K counter-proclaimed.

K was so disapproving of my name choice, and she complained about it to everyone.

“Steve thinks we’re going to name our daughter Aegis. He’s crazy if he thinks I’m agreeing to that. I hate  it. It’s not even a real name.” Everyone she told agreed that K should put her foot down—right on top of the name Aegis.

When K got pregnant, her friends and the people she worked with would joke about the name Aegis. They’d say to K, “How’s little Aegis, how’s little Aegis,” and they would all laugh. They joked about it so much that K could not get the name out of her head. Whenever I asked her to suggest a name for the baby, all she could come up with was Aegis. She was extremely frustrated and nervous that I would win out, and that our baby, if she were a girl, would be called Aegis. I felt a little sorry for K and started giving her name suggestions. After all, I had already chosen a name, and I figured it was only fair that K chose one too. We went through a long list of names. No, no, no, no, no. I was exhausted. A day or two before our daughter’s birth, I mentioned the name “Sadie”. K liked it well enough, and I had no strong feelings against it, so we agreed, if we had a girl, we would name her Sadie Aegis.

Of course, we did have a girl, and she has that name to this day…sort of. While K was recovering in the maternity ward, I went to the administration office of the hospital to fill out paper work. In the name section of the birth record, I wrote “Sadie Aegis 1.” For no good reason whatsoever, I thought I would add the birth order number in each of our children’s names. Anyway, the clerk helping me took the form and wrote in my last name, which really bugged, but I figured my daughter could drop it later.

A few days later, K and I were at home in bed. The lights were out and all was quiet. I took a chance that K was still awake and said, “I have a confession to make,” and I contritely told her what I had written on the birth record. “And I know that it will stay that way forever because you’re too lazy to go down there and change it” I said. I was surprised that she didn’t argue, and I fell asleep in peace.

The next night was much like the night before. We were lying in bed. The room was dark. We both assumed the quiet would last till morning. Then K said, “I have a confession to make.” She told me the hospital called and wondered if there was a mistake in the birth record. “There’s a number ONE in her name, and we can’t tell what the middle name should be because it’s horribly misspelled. Should we take that number one out?” Yes, K said. She told me this little story then laughed and went right to sleep.

Soon after, K and I went down to the county building to settle our daughter’s name once and for all. K was adamant that we leave the number out. I was adamant that Aegis be the first name. I did not want it relegated to middle name status. We both agreed that “Aegis” before “Sadie” didn’t flow as well, so we put both names under the first name heading and separated the two names with a slash. So, on her birth certificate, her first name is Sadie/Aegis. Most people call her Sadie. A few in the inner circle call her Aegis. And one of my friends calls her Sah-dee-juss.

It’s clear that we put a lot of thought into her name. We needn’t have bothered. From about age 2 to 5, Aegis either introduced herself as Dorothy or corrected us when we told others her name was Sadie. When she was 8 or 9, she made this startling admission: “I wish you had named me something exotic, like ‘Ivy’.”

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