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“I’m not budging.”
“NO, for the last time!”
“Just give up. Honestly, I’m so sick of the ‘R’ names already. None of them are right.”
“Sarah, please. You’re insulting Rayna, the wonderful woman we want our daughter to honor.”
“Look, Michael, it’s nothing against Rayna—you know that. We can have a daughter that resembles your mom—may she rest in peace—without naming the baby with an ‘R.’”
“But that’s Jewish tradition: to name a baby with the first letter of the name of a meaningful deceased relative. I just don’t want my mom’s spirit to die.”
“Michael, she won’t,” Sarah soothed, coming over to hug Michael and barely reaching him over her extended 9-month pregnant belly. “As I’ve said, we can have an “R” middle name, such as Rose. But think about it: the baby’s first name will be the one we say constantly, for the rest of our lives. The ‘R’ names we’ve discussed aren’t good enough for that.”
Michael pushed away from her and began walking upstairs. “Isn’t that the point? Don’t we want our daughter to have a part of Rayna inside her every day of her life? Besides, nearly every Jew’s middle name is ‘Rose’ in Great Neck,” he said with disapproving finality, closing the door of their bedroom.
Sarah sighed and looked at the pictures on the living room walls: she and Michael at their wedding, her baby niece sitting on Michael’s lap, and her 4-year-old nephew hugging his dog. Sarah wondered how it had been so easy for her sister to name these two kids in the pictures, Bailey and Bethany. Both were named for her brother-in-law’s grandfather, Barry. Barry had died just prior to the Bailey’s birth—a similar situation to Sarah’s own situation with Michael and his mom, Rayna. Sarah wondered if she was being difficult here, but no, she stood strongly on the fact that her baby should have the perfect-sounding name and still be able to honor Rayna in some other way.
At ten to six, Sarah and Michael still hadn’t spoken since the morning argument—the reality of a big house; ignoring each other wasn’t hard if they tried. “Bing-bing-bing-bing!”
“Michael, my parents are here,” Sarah yelled from upstairs. “Can you get it please?” Michael didn’t answer but the door opened, and Sarah’s parents rushed in at a speed only her fit 60-year-old folks could handle. Sarah could hear their greetings to Michael from the opposite end of the house.
“Where’s Sarah?” asked Judy, Sarah’s mom.
“Right here,” Sarah said, as she came downstairs in her loose shirt and pants that barely fit.
“Hi, Darling!” Judy exclaimed, kissing her daughter. “My, the baby’s growing every day!” Sarah smiled and put her hands on her stomach, feeling a gentle kick.
“You look great, Sar,” said Alan, her dad, giving her a hug.
“Come in,” Michael gestured as he took their coats. “I’ve been preparing dinner all afternoon.” Everyone went into the kitchen and they sat down to Michael’s Caesar salad and Chicken Parmesan.
“How is the name discussion going?” asked Judy excitedly. Michael and Sarah glanced at each other and remained silent. Tears started to well up in Sarah’s eyes and she asked to be excused from the table. Judy stood up and followed her daughter into another room.
“Ma, he won’t listen to me,” Sarah complained as she wiped her eyes with a tissue. “You know I loved Rayna, but I just don’t like any ‘R’ name Michael suggests. None of them are good enough to say thousands of times a day.”
“Oy gevalt,” Judy said, rubbing her head. “I think you should wait until the baby is born—there’s no harm in that. I know you want her name to sound perfect, and I think that with time, if you’re patient, that name will come to you. The name just hasn’t crossed your mind yet.”
“But Mom, you know I hate not knowing; it’s too stressful.”
“Sarah, listen to me. Inside your body, before she’s born, what even is the baby anyway?” Judy asked, giving Sarah no time to respond to this rhetorical question. “She’s a stranger. That baby is a tiny body that you have to love no matter what, because you’re her mom. Regardless of the baby’s eye shape, strength, health conditions, or name, you’re destined to love her. Am I right so far?”
Sarah shrugged and gave her mom a slight nod. “So my point is,” continued Judy, “you don’t know what the baby will be like. All you know is that you and Michael want to parent and nurture her so she’s a nice, caring, and successful person. Just give it time and when the baby’s born, you never know—something may surprise you.”
On December 5th, Sarah gave birth to her baby at 4:25 am. As she sat in the hospital bed during those early morning hours, she wondered once again what the baby’s name would be. When the sun came up she was allowed to hold the baby, who was hysterically crying. As Sarah glanced out the window, a flock of birds flew by at a rapid pace. They were small and red, and one stopped on the windowsill. This one bird chirped so loudly to a morning song that it drowned out the baby’s cries, the baby fell quiet; and her big brown eyes moved to the bird. For these few seconds while the bird was still there, the room was quiet. When the bird flew away, the baby cried again, as if she had never stopped. Then Michael reached into a bag next to the bed, producing three stuffed animals.
“Look what I bought,” Michael said, as he crouched next to the bed. Of the three stuffed animals, it was obvious the baby girl looked at just one of them as she hiccupped and calmed down: the red bird. Her eyes grew big, as they had a few minutes earlier.
And then, Sarah and Michael looked at each other and grinned, knowing there was only one answer: “Robin,” Sarah whispered.
“Robin,” Michael said, taking the baby. “A pretty ‘R’ name that’s authentically her.”