Friday, April 27, 2012

Jane and Mars

When the kids were each born, a family friend gave them a special teddy bear. The bears came with a bib that had the kid's first and middle name and birth date on it. Because of that we started calling Unity's bear Jane, which is her middle name.

When Brixton came along, I couldn't call his bear Marcel. Brixton's middle name was after my beloved friend who tragically died much too soon. It felt so right to name my son after him and so strange to name a teddy bear that name. So we called his bear Mars, a variation, a nickname that the real Marcel used but felt a little easier.

In our current culture middle names don't play much of a role. When I think about my adult friends, I don't know many of their middle names. They don't show up much, except for official documents or in origin stories.

When we were naming our kids, of course, middle names were a very important discussion. We knew they would have a long and complicated (and hyphenated!) last name. They were both named after songs we love, but the names themselves were unusual. We loved that, but we wanted them to have an escape hatch, in case the long distinctive name became too much.

Jane. What could be sweeter or more simple? One single easy syllable. I love Jane Austen, Chris grew up with a family friend named Jane. We loved the rhythm it gave, the gallop of Unity and then the settling of Jane.

Marcel was a different story. Since Marcel my friend died before my second pregnancy, I always knew his name would be somehow incorporated in our second child's name. I felt strange using Marcel as a first name since it was so connected to the Marcel I had known and loved, but the middle name felt right. It was a honor to my friend and a gift to my child. We didn't find out the sex of our children before they were born, but we knew either way that Marcel would be the middle name. In this culture it's not as basic as Jane, it still has more of a French flair. In France it's an old standard but we don't hear it that way. And of course when I hear it, I think of the wisdom and daring and deep heart of my old friend.

Even if their middle names mostly show up on paperwork and on teddy bears, I am glad my kids get to carry them. I'm glad of the stories we can tell them and the new meanings they will find for themselves.


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Beautiful post, Polly. The part about Marcel brought tears to my eyes of course. I was so happy when you used his name for Brixton's middle name because as you said what better gift could you give your child? And Unity Jane is so perfect rhythmically. I love thinking of names (it's that writer thing, I guess) and your children have such perfect ones.

grandma cindy said...

Very touching.

grandma ann said...

A lovely post; you express these thoughts so well.