I go back to work today. The summer is over. I have actually been going in to my new space for the past week or so, getting things organized and assessing the situation, but I could leave after a couple of hours or so. Now the real deal starts. This was a different sort of summer than we had last year, more peaceful in a lot of ways, despite all of our traveling. I am in a better place emotionally than I was last year at this time. And, for once, I am looking forward to the start of school. I am not sure that has ever happened in recorded history. I’ve got new clipboards and binders and a label maker, and I am busy organizing to my heart’s content.
This summer, we spent a lot of time putting together the baby’s room. I had a to-do list that I worked my way through relentlessly. I bought a rug and a bookcase and a dresser and made curtains with my mom. And Mike and my intrepid aunt got us the crib. (In case it sounds as if Mike is not pulling his weight, I should point out that he also put together the bookcase during a particularly exciting World Cup game and went and got the dresser with me after I found it on Craigslist.) Things are mostly together, which was what these two schoolteachers were hoping for before school started. Now we just get to work on details. And we should register, which I am hoping does not cause a recurrence of the Great Wedding Registry Incident in Target back in 2000. For the record, we never actually registered at Target for our wedding. We were too ashamed to go back in there.
Everyone (you know, the mysterious everyone) says that a baby’s movements first feel like a butterfly inside of you. Like many of life’s experiences, though, I found it to be more painful than advertised: not the softness of a butterfly’s wings, but more of a twinge. Like a mostly-healed ankle when you step on it in not quite the right way. It was so different than what everyone said that at first I was sure it was something else: my body stretching in some way, a new kind of hunger pains, or dinner disagreeing with me. I suppose that I should have expected growing pains.
Although everyone said it would change, I find that I am still remarkably unsentimental about things like sonograms. I am happy that the baby is doing okay and measuring normally, but it still looks pretty much like an alien to me most of the time. It feels a bit like a scam: “These are the baby’s kidneys!” Sure they are, lady. Sure they are. The sonogram technician offered irrefutable evidence that this baby is a boy. I was certain in my heart that it was a girl, so I was surprised. Not disappointed, not in the least. Just surprised. Which is, obviously, a silly thing to say given that 50/50 shot we had, but it is the truth. Mike and I had agreed easily on a girls’ name a couple of years ago, but our boy name took us longer. It is probably a good thing that we have had all this time to think about it, to solidify the message that we want to send our child with his name.
That has been a big part of our journey to parenthood, the idea of letting our child know who he or she could be, where he or she belongs. Both Mike and I have had experiences that have led us to think very carefully about how we want to communicate to our child (and any possible future children) who he is and who his family is. After a lot of discussion, we settled on the idea of giving our son my maiden name (which I still carry as my middle name) as his last name. Though it is not our last name, it is the name of his grandfather (who would very much have liked to meet him), his grandmother, and his Uncle Joseph. It is both a way to honor my dad by carrying on his name and a way to let our son know that he has a tribe. We also decided to give our son my dad’s first name as his middle name.
We had all of that settled for a while, but the first name took us a little bit longer. There were things we liked that didn’t go with the last name, and things one of us liked and the other didn’t. And then one day Mike turned to me and gave me the name that I knew was the exact right one. I am happy to announce that we are naming our son after the greatest hero in American literature, someone who stood up for what was right even when it seemed hopeless, who was wise and kind and the best shot in Maycomb County. Our son’s name is Atticus. His mom is a librarian and his dad teaches reading. What else could his name be, really?
In case I haven’t communicated it quite enough, this whole thing has been full of surprises for me, especially. I’m glad that we’re only halfway done, that we still have a little more time to get ready for Atticus to move in. Despite my lack of sentimentality, I did start to cry when we finally began to tell people his name. I guess I just feel so incredibly lucky that we can choose to name him after two men (one is fictional, it’s true) we respect and who stood for things we believe in, that we hope Atticus believes in one day, too.
(I’m not posting Atticus’s full name here because I have decided not to make him Google-able in utero. Though you may be able to deduce his last name if you are very very clever.)