Monday, November 20, 2006

Names, part one

In this blog, I refer to my baby as 'Miss Baby', which was not a hard pseudonym to come up with, because, well, I actually called her 'Miss Baby' rather than by her name until about a month ago.

Here's what I'm thinking: babies are actually kind of generic, even when you grow them in your own midsection and push them forcefully out into the world in a rush of violence and love. Babies are sorta all the same: purple, squally, squinty milk vampires who poop a lot and sleep a lot and have absurdly sharp fingernails that are impossible to trim.

So. I had the hardest time applying the name I had chosen for my daughter to the 9 pounds of instinct-driven need I came home from the hospital with. The name was my maternal grandmother's. It's unusual but traditional. Let's just call it, urrr, 'Hortense'. The 9 pound milk-vampire was clearly humanoid, and clearly female. 'Miss Baby' nicely designated her. The nickname could clearly only refer to the baby, but it was also abstract and generic. To call her 'Hortense' seemed grossly inappropriate: such a big name, full of resonance and history, applied to something (someone?) so wee and incapable struck me as ridiculous. Likely, I was also chicken: to name Miss Baby, to call her by her own name, made her more real than I was comfortable with and she was plenty real enough already, thank you very much.

I can honestly say that for the first four months of her life, it was only with great effort that I could bring myself to call my daughter 'Hortense'--she was always directly addressed as 'Miss Baby' ("You sure are hungry today, Miss Baby!") and referred to as such in my conversations with others, as in, "Miss Baby's fingernails sure are sharp!"

But as we have come to know each other, and as she has learned such human skills as making eye contact, smiling, chirping, wiggling, and generally communicating her own quite particular personality, she becomes more and more 'Hortense' to me. As she becomes driven more and more by her own will and less and less by her instincts she seems to more fully inhabit this burden of her own name. Not generic. Specific. Her own sweet self, just as stubborn as her namesake, with her father's ears and her mother's long neck, all combined into something I can now see as distinctly ... Hortense.

From this ...
... to this

3 comments:

bubandpie said...

My son took about a year to grow into his name: he was exclusively Bub, Bobo, Bubby, Bubboo, etc. until then. And just as he was decisively outgrowing that nickname, I started my blog, so now "Bub" he will remain.

The Pie has a more baby-friendly name - even in infancy, she was only "Pie" about 50% of the time.

Slackermommy said...

I love nicknames and how they come about. My kids have several because not just one stuck. It really depends on my mood. Thanks for stopping by my blog and your daughter is darling.

Alpha Dogma said...

Several weeks ago my 4 year old was shocked to learn that we CHOSE his name. He asked, "How did you know my was [insert obscure Irish family name]? Who told you my name? Did I tell you my name?" He was pretty disbelieving that we randomly chose his name without his direct input.

And Miss Baby (aka "'Hortense") is too cute for her own good. Those cheeks! Those big eyes! That cosy purple toque! Good things.