“If the baby’s a girl, can we name her Madeline?” My sister Naomi, then five, asked my parents, who were expecting their fourth child. We both loved Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 Madeline.
And when my mother gave birth March 22, 1964 to a girl, they named her Madeline.
That sister is now thinking of names for a new puppy they expect to bring home next week. They’re tossing around names from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a favorite movie series, hoping one will be suitable for a golden retriever.
Invited to a friend’s for a knitting session recently, I overheard a woman talking about her daughter. My ears perked up when I heard her say “Lydia.” She was referring to her daughter, a high school sophomore. I mentioned that my Lydia is now a college senior and continued with my knitting on the other side of the room, chatting with some others. A bit later, the conversation returned to the other Lydia mother and she asked me what my daughter’s middle name was. “Rose,” I said, “after my grandmother.” She smiled. Her daughter, her Lydia, has the same middle name.
That sort of annoyed me. I had found “Lydia,” when pregnant and after I learned the baby was a girl. I always knew I wanted the middle name Rose and was looking for a lyrical, unusual name to pair it with.
Then there’s my name. I was one of four Lisas in my high school graduating class of 160 students. In college, there were a few more. It seems for the past 30 years at least, I hadn’t met other adults named Lisa. Until recently. I now know at least three Lisa women, and though not as possessive I am about my daughter’s name, I still find it weird calling others by my name.
Today of course the big name on anyone’s mind that lives anywhere east of Washington, DC is Sandy. As the tropical storm turned hurricane barrels into the east coast, communities are bracing for unprecedented damage. The mere idea that mass transportation is shut down in New York City, that there are no commuter train services, that towns are declaring state of emergency status, is mind-boggling.
Yet Sandy, a name that could be masculine or feminine, derives from the Greek, from Alexander, which means defending men. So perhaps that’s a hopeful sign.
People name babies and pets, ships and planes, buildings and summer cottages. Storms are named by the World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations, which inherited the job from the National Hurricane Center, that had named storms since 1953. The organization uses a yearly, fixed list of names arranged alphabetically (omitting the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z) for a given year. There are six years of lists in place, and each list is reused every six years. Names associated with storms that create excessive devastation, like Katrina, and most likely Sandy, become retired. Lisa is on the 2016 list.
And Sandy, the latest symbol of destruction, has a playlist all her own: http://www.wickedlocal.com/northofboston/features/x1890067585/Songs-about-Sandy-Your-Hurricane-Playlist