A child by any other name

By Ian Byington

FOR THE LAST EIGHT and three-quarters months, my wife and I have been with child. Anytime soon, the angels will call.

We've got the bag by the door, the car full of gas, and a crib setup in the kid's new room. This is our first, and we're ready - except for one thing. We haven't got a name. Plenty of advice, but no name.

My parents came to visit last month and lobbied hard for their nomenclature procedures. They had six of us, and they named us all after family members of varying distances from the basic unit (Sherri, my wife, just graduated in sociology at the University of Oregon. This is the way we talk - units - now that one of us is educated.)

Our family names range from the primal (Hunter, Mary) to the ordinary (Pat, Richard), to the less ordinary (Vivian, Edith). They wisely warned us that the delight of honoring someone by naming our kid for him or her can be overbalanced by the dangers of offending the neglected.

Sherri's brother and sister have accounted for all the nieces and nephews on the other side - and they all start with S: Scott, Shaun and Stephanie. Pressure from that side.

Our friends at the natural food store have offered a number of suggestions: Backpack, Little Tree, Morning Dew, Snowflake (Flake for short - should be a big hit in third grade), Rainbow Blue, Acidophilus, Woodstock 20 (sounds like IBM outreach to Janis Joplin fans) and others.

In A Thousand Clowns by Herb Gardner, Murray decides to let his young ward Nick wait until he's 12 to pick his own name. Nick tries on a variety of names that are generally influenced by whatever he has most recently seen on TV or read in the paper, or by what dog he has met.

Sherri and I went through a surname stage. Ashley and Whitney are presently in vogue - Montague, Sterling, Hawkenberry and Pachenco have all been suggested. All, of course, lend themselves to nicknames - Monty, Sterl or Hawk. We realize we'll have to save up for prep school in New England if we name the kid Edison or Worthington or something like that.

Nicknames are a real concern. After years as a soccer coach, I developed the habit of reducing players' names to one syllable: Stephanie became Steph, Jennifer Jen, and so on. We add that into the formula when we think about calling the kid Kirstin (curse!), or Seamus (shame!) or Simpson (simp!).

Although Sherri's sociology background hasn't moved her to lobby for Emil or Max, my literature background swings me through the Shakespearean cosmology of Olivias, Ariels, Cordelias and Antipholis, as well as the great poets (Dylan, Randall, Emily, Sylvia and e.e.) and other writers. Fans of folk music, we lean towards Woody, Arlo, Pete, Holly and whomever we've last heard from.

We've got a ways to go. Royalty in England load a kid up with every uncle or aunt in sight - hence, Prince William George Albert Charles James. We could do that - Lear Fido Joni Mitchell Kesey Earthbug Jose Symington, or something. Doesn't quite have the ring we were looking for. Maybe they're not in the right order ... .

So, it's back to the baby-name book. We know it sounds too pugilistic to leave the kid named Kid Byington. Luckily, we have another week or so.

There's still time to catch a movie or two and watch the most interesting part: the credits.

Ian Byington has been writing short stories and long plays for some time now. Some have been performed, some have been published, and some have been set aside to grow. This article was written a week before his son Shay was born at the midwives' birthing center in Eugene, Oregon, twenty years ago, and was useful when Cameron was born two years later.

Ian currently lives and works on San Juan Island, Washington state.

Lately, he's been writing for local newsletters (http://www.sanjuanupdate.com), environmental websites, and other folks' websites (http://www.byd2.com), as well as writing & singing songs (see ianbyington.com).