Dear Avery Sebastian and Aurora Seine:
So you want to know why your mother and I decided to name you the names we named you.
Avery, don’t you feel like an Avery? And Aurora, don’t you feel very much like a girl who avoids sewing to keep from pricking her finger? Your names are easy to spell, sound how you’d expect to spell Avery Sebastian and Aurora Seine, and hold no silent letters or double letters.
Your mother, while not an observant Jew, liked the tradition of naming after the dead, but she wanted to observe the tradition at a slant, which is how she and I have mostly lived our lives. She didn’t want to name you the dead person’s full name, but she wanted to use the first letter of the dead person’s name as the first letter of your name. She gave me a few letters from which to choose, and the letter A was among those letters.
Avery, I’ll confess to driving the decision behind your name. When I was a kid, I loved the television show Murphy Brown, and Murphy Brown had a son (and mother) named Avery, and, after, the name Avery was on a shortlist of names for my child. So when told our child could have a first name beginning with the letter A, I zeroed in on Avery and didn’t waver (unless you had been a girl, and then you would have been an Auden. Do you feel more like an Auden?).
Your middle name was more difficult to choose. S, another letter from which I could choose, starts hundreds of names, but your mother and I saw the movie Cruel Intentions on our third or fourth date, and, well, Ryan Phillippe, who played Sebastian, is kind of hot. So I pushed for Sebastian and your mother, who also thinks Ryan Phillippe is kind of hot, consented.
But I also like to say that we got your middle name from the main character in The NeverEnding Story because saying your middle name came from The NeverEnding Story is infinitely cooler than saying your middle name came from Cruel Intentions.
I thought we’d get bonus points for your initials being a word – ASH – which, as you know, is a kind of tree, and the women in your mother’s family for several generations have names of plants and other vegetation as first names. So your initials spelling the name of a tree seemed, again, to follow Holly’s traditions at a slant.
I thought you’d maybe even go by Ash, once you got to college, all dyed-black hair and clove cigarettes and poetry recitations. But then I met you and realized you’d never be an Ash, and never dye your hair black, and never smoke clove cigarettes or recite poetry.
You have a Hebrew name, too, Asher Lev Doron, which loosely translates to Happy Heart Gift. You’ll notice we chose a Hebrew name that incorporates your English initials.
And Aurora, way to go, getting past ma-ma and pa-pa. You must be proud of your vocabulary if you’re calling us out on naming you what we named you. Blame your mother. I named Avery, so your mother got first dibs on your name.
Your mother and I found out you were a girl the afternoon I got out of a psychiatric hospital, where I voluntarily checked myself into after trying twice to kill myself at the end of a failed relationship with a man who is clearly not your mother. I may have missed out on most of the first two trimesters of your mother’s pregnancy with you, but I’ve got to tell you, I was there for your mother’s entire pregnancy with Avery and missing out on most of your mother’s first two trimesters with you means I didn’t miss out on much.
Aurora, your mother said. She is Aurora.
If you and Avery were going to have first names starting with the same letter, then you had to have a middle name starting with the letter S. Picking your middle name took the better part of your mother’s pregnancy. For a while, it was Selene, named for Selene, Goddess of the Moon, since Aurora is Goddess of the Dawn. Siren replaced Selene (yes, you would have had every right to be pissed had your mother and I given you the middle name Siren). Simone replaced Siren; then Seine replaced Simone.
I thought of Seine when thinking about escaping to Paris and maybe missing more of your mother’s pregnancy, not to miss more of your mother’s pregnancy but to miss what my shattered life felt like, but, really, a shattered life in Paris feels the way a shattered life in Boston feels, so I didn’t go. But thinking about going led to thinking about the Seine, which led to your middle name. Bonus points for it sounding like the word sin, because I think you just might be a hellion.
You’ll have a Hebrew name too, we just haven’t had your naming ceremony yet. But if I get my way – and I think I will – the second name in your Hebrew name will be Leah, which is as close as Jews get to the name Leia, another princess from a galaxy far, far away. So you’re a princess in English and Hebrew.
Those are the reasons why you have the names you have, but if you’re old enough to complain about your names, then you’re certainly old enough to change them. I won’t mind. You’ll still be Bug and Princess, regardless of what your birth certificates or other legal paperwork says, but hopefully, Avery, I’m still your best friend, and Aurora, hopefully I’m daddy, because da-da surely must’ve gotten old.