a boy by any other name...

We had a hard time deciding on names for our kids. As a matter of fact, when I was about 7 months pregnant with our first baby my parents came out to see us, and my dad actually gave us a little help in the name game. We were all out shopping at the local mall when my dad and I were sitting outside a store waiting for Geo and my mom. When I told him how difficult it had been for us to decide on a name he said, Why don't you name him after your grandfather? My grandfather was given the name Manuel Pereira, but for business reasons (who knows, it was a long time ago) he had always used Jim Perry. And this is how my oldest son Perry got his name.

Then when we were living in California while my husband was going to graduate school, we were excited to find out we would be having another little boy. Samuel? Ethan? Nothing seemed right, until Geo thought it would be nice to narrow things down by either using family names or names from good literature. He was getting his PhD in rhetoric and literature after all, and since he had done his Honors thesis at BYU on Paradise Lost, we knew we had to name this new little guy Adam. It fit then, and it fits now, partly because he is a bit of an innocent and we like to say he hasn't really left the garden yet.

Ok, back in Utah again after getting hired by BYU and along comes pregnancy number three. Lots of good names in my family to choose from. My father's name is Robert. I have brothers named Robert, David, Anthony. All good and hearty names. Good names on my husband's side too. My husband's name is Gideon, but it is a bit of an overpowering name and best reserved for grandsons rather than sons (which I have loosely committed my children to use). Again, a standstill, until one night my husband says he would like to name this boy, revealing it to me later in the pregnancy. I was kind of game for a little fun, so I agreed, until it was decided that the name would come from a Shakespearean play, my husband being a Shakespeare professor. Rosencrantz? Malvolio? But I was happily surprised when Geo told me the name he had chosen was Lear, not from the happiest play Shakespeare wrote, but from the well-crafted one that many consider to be his best work. Plus, my new little one might appreciate being named after a king. We had no idea how important his name would be to him until we started noticing in about third grade the way he signed all of his homework "King Lear". And going to Dad's class and reciting the plot to a roomful of college kids at the start of a semester was pretty cool too. It has fit him through and through.

Then came the last one. Here we go again. A boy's name. My husband and I each had a grandfather we never knew, both of whom died before we were born. My oldest son got the name of my never-known, and now we decided to complete the trend by naming this last son after the other one. This grandfather went by FG, for Fielding Garr (Burton). Garr being an ancestor's surname. We loved Fielding, but decided to use a different middle name, keeping the FG in tact. And thus Fielding Gray Burton rounded out the family. We call him Gray mostly, but Fielding gets used here and there too. When he was little he liked to decide when he wanted each name used, and just today he walked into the dining room and announced to me and Geo that he is going to start telling some of his friends about his first name. He likes it. He thinks when he is an adult he will use it more than Gray.

I have been thinking of this topic lately because we really celebrate Memorial Day well in my husband's family, which we live close to. We gather at the three cemeteries where their ancestors are all buried, and we clean off graves. We put peonies in vases and sit on the grass as my mother-in-law takes out flip charts with pictures and stories and explains what name goes with what picture. When my kids that have Burton ancestral names see their names on those head stones they are not creeped out, but proud of their heritage. And my sons that have names more related to my side of the family still know where their names come from.

A humble grocer who helped everyone, the first man, who was a sign of God's love, a great work of art that teaches the lesson of familial loyalty, and a grandfather who died while serving a mission for our church.

It helps to give them a sense of belonging and purpose. It matters.

14 comments

G-ray | April 15, 2009 at 9:22 PM

Thats me, Fielding Gray! :D

wendy | April 15, 2009 at 9:24 PM

Wonderful -- I love names that have meaning and I call purpose. That is how I named my kids too --my Travis who was named after the older brother Travis in the movie Ol'Yeller. Good solid name and he was a good kid. It is fun to have a meaning behind the name!!

Lanie | April 15, 2009 at 10:01 PM

I just loved this blog. You have such a wonderful way with words..I remember when I pregnant with you, I didn't know if I was having a boy or a girl..I knew if it was a boy it would be Robert..but, not sure about a girls name..then I saw you and the name Karen came to my lips..maybe you were Karen so that Vo could give us Kazzy...all I know is I truly believe that God whispered in my ear that day and said call this little angel Karen. Love You,Mom

Connie | April 16, 2009 at 7:22 PM

Good names. Something for each son to live up to and be proud of. You have some great kids.

Mrs4444 | April 16, 2009 at 7:32 PM

It's important for kids to know their connections to those who came before them. I enjoyed learning about your thought processes in naming your sons. I'm sure each one feels very special to know the care that went into their names. And those whose names played a role must feel proud, too.

Midge | April 16, 2009 at 9:59 PM

I love to hear how others have decided on their kids' names. Thanks for sharing.

Melanie J | April 16, 2009 at 10:00 PM

I'm a good and hearty name kind of girl too. I went with something literary for my oldest (I knew there was a reason I liked your husband's class!) and his middle name is Atticus. We actually considered the name Gideon for a middle one (not after your husband, although I loved his class!) but went with Grant. And I think I have the last and only boy name left that I like all picked out and ready to go. Maybe some time next year I'll have a reason to use it...

charrette | April 17, 2009 at 1:05 PM

I love all your kids' names. We put that kind of energy into naming our kids too. In fact, one of my recent letters to Josh outlines how similar I see him to the Joshua in the Bible he was named after.

Bonnie | April 18, 2009 at 1:04 AM

Loved this post. I also feel very strongly about names, and all of my kids are named first name by meaning and middle name by family member that they're like. It has been magical for them, almost like a blessing that they grow into. You are so right; it does matter.

The Richins Family | April 18, 2009 at 3:59 AM

Great Post! I've always liked your boys' names, and wondered how you chose them!

Heather of the EO | April 18, 2009 at 12:22 PM

I LOVE posts about names. It inspires me to do my own sometime.

And I LOVE the names you chose. Such great stories behind them. And I also think it's really cool that you do Memorial Day the way you do. It means so much more when it's stopped and truly considered.

Heidi Ashworth | April 18, 2009 at 8:31 PM

I think names are very important. Our kids, Michael, Mary and Peter, are all named after important religious personages but they are also all names that would be very common in their ancestry and in the British Isles where our ancestors come from (my husband didn't want to name any of our kids after family specifically--however, my mom's maiden name was Marilyn Peterson and was often called Mare or Pete so I got my namesakes in that way). Peter's first name is William--we just thought the order sounded better that way--and he is starting to think it is cool to go by his first name, too. :)

Rachel Cotterill | April 19, 2009 at 11:42 AM

I love that you've picked names that really mean something to your family - and so unusual!

My parents called me by my middle name, but I switched when I was eleven. It still confuses some relatives & old schoolfriends.

Eowyn | April 27, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Wow. What a great post. I think I'll go back and re-name my boys. . .

:)