Mama at the Movies: The Namesake

The first time I was pregnant and poring over name books, I quickly realized that naming a child is the one decision a couple makes that allows no room for compromise. If your favorite name happens to be the same as your partner’s 3rd grade playground nemesis, that’s it; you have to find another option. An old Saturday Night Live skit shows a couple arguing so fiercely about naming their baby — each of them turning the other’s suggestion into a playground taunt — that they wind up divorcing.

The second time around, we had to at least pretend to consider our son Ben’s suggestions, like “Telephone” and “Benna.” Eventually we agreed on two girl’s names and crossed our fingers that these would be enough. But I packed the name books in my hospital bag, just in case. In the pictures of us in the hospital after our second son’s birth, a whiteboard listing various possibilities is visible in the background: Daniel; Josiah; Leo; Elijah. We left the hospital with our red-haired beauty still unnamed, and the hospital staff distressed. “What’s really the problem with filing this paperwork later?” I asked. “Well,” someone finally admitted, “If the baby doesn’t have a name, it makes it harder for us to bill you.”

Well then, I thought, I’ll be rushing right back.

It took us three days to settle on Elijah, three days during which our friends and family — all of whom had seen that whiteboard — kindly kept their opinions to themselves.

This all came back to me when I went to see The Namesake (Mira Nair, 2006) with a friend who is expecting the birth of her second daughter any day. She and her husband haven’t yet settled on a name (although their four year old lobbies hard for her choice by making elaborate drawings of the letter C) and as we waited for the lights to dim I thought of how often lately she and I have sat through to the very end of a film, reading the credits carefully in search of potential names.

Read the rest of the column here at Literary Mama.

One Comment

  1. Violeta says:

    I loved the novel and have been trying to get someone to go see the movie with me (or watch the kids, so I can go!)
    I may have to wait until I can NetFlix it, but reading your column gave me a great taste!