Brand building through storytelling

A fine day to be born

Friday, April 17, 2009 was to all intents and purposes the first day of spring: a day for sandals and pink nail polish; for skateboards and sidewalk cafes; for remembering to stock up on sunscreen and forgetting you had ever worn clodhopper boots, filmed at the toes with salt. People burst bare-armed onto the streets to inhale the sweetness of the weather. Young or old, their faces had the sheen of new leaves.

Grandbaby (3)Our second grandson was born on April 17 at 8:30 a.m. He looked around for a couple of hours before sinking into the impenetrable sleep of the exhausted newborn. He was 10 hours old when we first leaned over the crib where he lay wrapped in flannel, mittened hands tucked under his chin, dreaming of who knows what. We waited for an hour for him to open his eyes (brown, we’re told). Now and then a snuffle or a twitch raised my hopes. Then I thought of the effort it must take to be born, the violent expulsion from the warm, dark domain that belonged to him alone and the baffling emergence into light and movement. I wondered what he made of the world in those first hours—already learning, as babies are primed to do, and maybe missing the comfort he’d left behind. I wanted to hold the small weary traveler but it didn’t seem right to disturb him.

We asked the question everyone is asking: does he have a name yet? His parents have been searching for a name ever since they first learned they were having a son. They still couldn’t agree. Neither could my husband and I when we became parents. I favoured Biblical names: Christopher, Jonathan, Daniel. My husband’s tastes ran to the English and eccentric. He now swears he was only joking about Paddington but I remember saying, in a voice that quivered with defiance, “Paddington is a stuffed bear in wellies!” What kind of man had I married? At 22, I saw a crisis in every argument.

Thank goodness we’d agreed from the outset that with a surname like Jones, a trisyllabic first name adds rhythm and heft. So we compromised on Benjamin. For good measure (in both senses of the word) we gave our son two middle names, one of which is both English and eccentric. Since Ben has never used either of these names which absorbed so much parental creativity, I think I’d better keep them to myself. What I will say—and proudly, too—is that the whole thing trips off the tongue like the first line of a poem: “Benjamin MMM-hmm MMM-mmm Jones.”

Back when we were at loggerheads over the name, we found hope in a wisely whimsical poem by T.S. Eliot, “On the Naming of Cats.” Every cat should have three different names, Eliot says—an everyday moniker, a distinctive one for special occasions and a third known only to the cat himself:

…when you notice a cat in profound meditation,

The reason, I tell you, is always the same:

His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation

Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:

His ineffable effable


Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

By the time you read this, Baby Boy Jones will in all likelihood have a name that will seem like the perfect, inevitable choice. I’ll know what he looks like with his eyes open. I’ll be asking what he did today, and his parents will be eager to share every milestone. Day by day, they’ll discover who their firstborn is, as he discovers what it means to be at once a member of the human tribe and a unique, irreplaceable me. The great adventure begins.

Click here to read more about being a grandmother. 

Posted by Rona

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