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A Madeleine By Any Other Name . . .

When my husband and I were in high school (yes, we’ve been together a
long time) he turned to me one night after leaving my parents’ house and
said, “Why do your parents call you ‘Dolly’?” I looked at him blankly.
“Um, because it’s my name?”

Truth be told, it was the first time I realized my family used nicknames
with me. Dolly was just one of my names, like (don’t laugh) Tinker (as
in Bell) or Sis or Baby Girl. We’re obviously a family of nicknamers and
it’s clearly been passed on to me; ask any friend of mine how often I
call them by their real name and the answer will be shockingly small. My
girlfriend Abby is LuLu (don’t ask); Jennie is Genevieve, Susanne is
Suzette, and so forth.

How you are called is a powerful thing; it can be degrading, painful,
loving, even caressing. My maternal grandmother called me Kiddo, and
still does occasionally much to my satisfaction. Dolly was never
degrading or belittling; it was just who I was and I still answer to it.
I find names to be very defining; both your given name and your
nicknames draw an outline of who you are for everyone to see.

So when I was pregnant, we had many conversations about our baby’s name.
As soon as we found out it was a girl, she was Baby Girl, and still is
and probably will be until she dies. Having some sort of name made the
child in me more real, more individual.

But we had to give our daughter more than her family nickname, so the
great debate began. Truth be told, both Brian and I are incredibly
opinionated people (shocking I know) so our negotiations for children’s
names had begun right after we got married, when we weren’t even
planning on having children. We had the field narrowed down pretty well
for a while, but the pregnancy made us look long and hard at those
names, to see whether or not they still fit. We found that they didn’t,
really, so the work began again.

Brian and I agreed to draw up lists of all the girls’ names that
interested us and meet back together to begin negotiations. I had always
scoffed at baby name books – like I need a book to think of people’s
names! – but Brian brought one home, The
Baby Name Wizard
, that was truly ingenious. It shows the trend
for a particular name for the past 100 years, lists what a sibling of
that child’s name would most likely be, and several other great tools.
We both went through the book with a highlighter and ended up with a
list of about 10 names each.

As a side note, we were closer together on girls’ names than on boys’.
Brian’s criterion for a boy’s name was, Does it look good on the back of
a football jersey? While mine was, Does it sound good when said by
teenage girls? As in “Oh my gosh you guys, did you see Josh Milner
today? He is SOOO hot.”

Finished with the book, we got together and fought the lists down to one
list of about six names. Since we believe a name says a lot about a
person, we turned at this point to researching the meaning of each of
the names. After putting together a few first-and-middle-name
combinations, we wrote out their definitions and promptly ignored the
names themselves, focusing on the meanings instead. We spent a lot of
time in prayer over the meanings, hoping we’d give baby girl the name
God had already destined for her.

We came to a strong conclusion together for the frontrunner name,
Madeleine Lucy. We felt like a Madeleine could be anything she wanted to
be, from a famous actress to Secretary of State. But we waited to
announce it to everyone until after she was born, in case we met her and
she didn’t fit the name. We had a backup name just in case, and even a
boy’s name in case things really got messed up in the sonogram.

Madeleine Lucy means Tower of Light. Brian experienced September 11 two
doors down from the Twin Towers, and day one of my pregnancy was
September 11. She has certainly been a tower of light in our lives, and
I can’t wait to see how it describes the woman she will be. The name
fits her in so many ways; she’s a Maddie Lou for her Southern roots, and
just plain Lou when she’s giving me the New York attitude. But she’ll
also always be my Baby Girl.

And just the other day, my mom called me Baby Girl in passing. Why? It’s
my name. Always will be. And I feel great knowing I’m still someone’s
Baby Girl.


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