Monday, June 17, 2013

What's in a Name?

Even before I got pregnant, I was thinking of baby names. We all do it. One of my friends has had a baby girl name in her back pocket since high school. She had boys. Mike and I are both fairly unique. We don't follow the norms exactly the way everyone else does. We tweak it a little. We don't necessarily turn completely off the path of normalcy, but we do wander to the side from time to time. So, we both knew we wanted a unique name. As a teacher, I wanted my child to have a name that was easy to spell - and pronounce. (I once worked with a child named Seachelle. Like sea shell. Seriously?)

We considered several names. I knew Evelyn was going to be the middle name, after my maternal grandmother. She died when I was very little, so I never really knew her. But my mother always said we would have really gotten along. The way my mom talked about her mother and how I would have loved her, really made me feel like I knew her. Sometimes, I had a sense she was there with me. I wanted to honor her by giving my daughter her name. I somehow felt that by doing so, I was giving her life again. It is even more heartbreaking to think about how I failed to do that.

As far as first names go, Mike and I ran through a few we liked, but didn't always feel right. We loved Sophia. Mike had a way of testing names, which was shouting them through the house. "Sophia Evelyn Wood, get in here now!" We thought that sounded beautiful. But then, everyone and their brother started naming their girls Sophia. And as soon as Disney named its new princess Sofia, we were out! We also liked Amelia, Harper, and Ava. As the popularity of those names increased, our love for them did the opposite.

I wanted a name that would be only hers. But not too weird that people would say " where the heck did you come up with that?" Spelling was important too. A name had to be spelled the way it sounded. Otherwise, the poor girl would be correcting strangers her entire life.

I think I was flipping through a baby name book when I found Kenley, but I can't be sure because when I checked later, it wasn't there. I tucked the name inside my mind for safekeeping. When I brought it up to Mike, he loved it. "Kenley Evelyn Wood, go clean your room!" Perfect! So, Kenley it was. If you google Kenley, you'll find links to a quirky girl from Project Runway and to a town in England. My mom and I had plans to take her there one day. When she was 10. Kenley to Kenley. Maybe I'll go there myself one day. I would really like to.

On top of all of this terrible mess, I have to admit I am really upset I can't raise a daughter named Kenley. I will never see it scribbled in a three year old's handwriting. I will never see it on an awards certificate for a second grade spelling bee. I will never hear it called at a high school graduation - or across the house. I lost so much when I lost her. Her name was just one of them.


  1. I personally love the name Kenley... it's one of the few really cute & modern girl names that somehow has escaped over-popularity. I'm so sorry you'll never be able to yell at her to clean her room or teach her to write her name. But I do hope you're able to visit Kenley, England one day... maybe to celebrate Kenley's 10th birthday <3


  2. My sister named her son Joseph David Rodriguez. The name David came from the brother we were suppose to have. He would have been around 29 or 30 this year. My sister is turning 25. You may still have Kenley in your family in a different way. Remind your future children about their big sister that is there for them.