Wonk Ton O Dew

“A child is not alive until it is named.”

A line from The Poisonwood Bible. One of the local boys is explaining the meaning behind the language of the Congo.

“Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word. The rabbit has the life it has…because it is named rabbit, mvundla.”

We had a hard time naming Olivia. We debated and went back and forth over and over again. I took polls at work to get input. I researched names all over the internet. I asked for every family name in both sides of our families. I always came back to Olive.

I loved the name Olive. Everyone except my husband and a few of my friends said it was awful. Said that if I named her that she’d be made fun of the rest of her life. I wound be the cause of life-long torment if I named her the only name that felt right to me.

I still don’t know exactly what it was/is about that name. Olive. The adorable little green fruit with enough taste to dress up the driest alcohol (and my favorite drink) and the very symbol of offering peace. What’s not to love?

But in the spirit of compromise and the fact that I couldn’t risk setting her up to fail, I agreed to naming her Olivia. But I vowed that I would call her Olive, I didn’t care what anyone else did.

And then she died.

Maybe the gods knew her name was never settled so they never gave her life.

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  1. #1 by beth on August 11, 2010 - 2:32 pm

    i think babies aren’t named in china until after they are born. i’m sure i read in a book once that they didn’t used to be named until they were like a year old.

    i don’t think she died because her name wasn’t settled. i think she died because sometimes life is shitty and unfair.

    of course, that’s not really any comfort at all, is it?
    xxx

  2. #2 by Catherine W on August 12, 2010 - 4:03 pm

    I like the name Olive. Why did people think that she would be made fun of is you named her Olive? Because of the fruit?

    Olivia is beautiful but Olive seems . . cute.

    I can see the pull of the idea underlying the final sentence. I have several ideas of this ‘type’ myself I think. Something that makes no obvious rational sense and yet . . does. Or does to me anyhow?

    If it helps, G’s name was decided about ten years before she came into being. Sometimes I wonder if we dreamt her away, imagined her into nothingness. Could cut both ways?

  3. #3 by Hannah on August 19, 2010 - 12:05 am

    I love the name Olive. And I think you can call her that in your heart without somehow unsettling her identity, her tether to this earth.

    I’ve had similar tugs of war (of guilt?) with myself between Z’s real name (Zainab) and her ‘while I was pregnant’ name (Haloumi). We nicknamed her Haloumi from very early on, and by the end, everyone referred to her as Haloumi – my stepdaughters would pat my tummy and say ‘hello Haloumi’, El Prima would call and say, ‘how’s Haloumi’ and the day before the accident my brother kissed my belly as he went off to work down on the penninsular, and said ‘bye Haloumi – see you soon’. At the time of the accident El Prima and I still hadn’t agreed on a girl’s name – I was tempted to make Haloumi her real name, but (I guess like your husband) I was worried about naming a person after a type of cheese. So we settled on Zainab while we were still in shock – it had been on the list and was one we both liked but wasn’t my favorite. I love her name because it is hers, but when I think of her moving in my belly, I still think of her as Haloumi.

    This to me is one of the saddest things about a baby dying – that they don’t even get a chance to grow into their name – and now we’ll never know whether it really suited her. [sorry for long blathery comment] xxxh

  4. #4 by http://yahoo.com on February 10, 2013 - 10:54 am

    I personally seem to agree with the whole thing that is authored within “Wonk Ton O Dew live emotionally”.
    Many thanks for all the actual details.Thanks for the
    post,Hester

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