“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”
It was with shaky fingers that William dialed his mother’s phone number. His wife, Cassie, was already on the phone with her own mother in the room next door. They had decided it would be best to break the news in a way that allowed both future grandmothers to hear the news at the same time. That morning’s doctor’s appointment had led to quite the announcement.
William pressed the phone to his ear just in time to hear his mother’s sing-song voice say, “Hello?”
“Mom, it’s me.”
“William? Oh, hello! How is my beautiful daughter-in-law? Taking good care of that baby I hope!”
“Yes, Mom, Cassie and the baby are good. We just got back from the doctor. Remember, I told you we’d be able to find out the gender soon?”
“Oh! Yes, yes, I remember now. So? What’s the verdict?”
William rolled his eyes. Sounded like Mom was back to watching too much Law & Order. “We’re having girls, Mom.”
A cacophony of happiness resounded in his ear. But as his mother fully comprehended what William had just said, it was suddenly cut short. “Wait, girls? Plural?”
Surprising himself with a smile, William affirmed her hearing, “We’re having twins, Mom. Two baby girls.”
From that day on, William’s mother required daily phone calls. She wanted to know how Cassie was feeling, but she didn’t want to bother her with questions by calling her directly. She wanted to know everything there was to know about the babies, but she didn’t seem to understand that they don’t get new information every single day. And most of all, she wanted to give William advice.
“You need to make sure you set up the nursery in a way that will make handling both babies as easy as possible. Consider the paths you set up. There needs to be room for each of you to change a baby at the same time, et cetera.” You’d think the woman was an expert on raising twins, even though William was an only child.
When the due date was about a month away, William’s mother decided it was time to visit the parents-to-be. Cassie’s parents only lived about thirty minutes away from them, but William’s mother had moved to a retirement home on the coast not long after William’s father passed. It was a four-hour drive, and since she didn’t drive anymore, she took the bus the entire way. When she finally reached her son’s front door, she was in no mood for small talk.
“Where’s Cassie?” she said bluntly, forgoing a greeting or commentary about her journey.
“At the park,” William said, slightly stunned. “Doctor said it’s good for the babies to get that fresh air and walk around.”
“Why didn’t you go with her? Actually, never mind. It’s good you didn’t. Best to talk to you alone.”
That was never a good sign.
They sat down on the living room sofa and William’s mother pulled a large scrapbook out of her bag. “William, do you know what this is?”
He shook his head.
“It’s our family story. Your history.” She opened it up and began flipping through the pages, yellowed by time and covered with all different types of handwriting in various colors of ink. William had never been one for history, but even he had to admit it was quite a sight.
“My dear son,” his mother said, “raising daughters is different than you might expect. You are not just raising them for the world. You are raising them for themselves. This world will be hard on them. It will pull them in all different directions. You are there to help them create their path. You are there to make them strong by showing them what it is to have a different strength than their own and see it as good. You are there to show them what kind of love they should accept when their womanhood begins to be noticed by the world.
“Look at these pages. Almost all of them were crafted by women. Most men don’t have the care and patience for scrapbooking. That’s no matter. But they must have some level of care and patience to love their daughters right. Teach that to your girls when they’re young. Teach it to them with their very names.”
William’s brow furrowed. “What are you talking about, Mom?”
She smiled. “Look at all of these names, William. We don’t know how to pronounce half of them anymore. Americans, we are lazy. English tires us out. We don’t think to learn how to pronounce names like the ones in this book and therefore we lose their beauty. Give your daughters names like these. Make certain that anyone who wants to be close to them has to try from the outset. Has to listen to her and learn to speak her language.”
Almost exactly one month from that day, Cassie gave birth to two healthy, smiling, beautiful little girls. As the new mother fawned over her babies, it fell to William to fill out the birth certificate. His mother found him sitting in the waiting room, carefully spelling out the names he and Cassie had chosen.
“May I see?” she asked.
He nodded and handed her the pages, careful not to smudge the fresh ink. In strong block letters, the names read Schuyler Maryann James and Saoirse Rose James. His mother smiled.
William said, “Cassie plans on calling them Sky and Ro as nicknames, but I think I’ll stick to their full first names. A wise woman convinced me that it’s a good way to raise them strong.”
His mother placed a hand on his shoulder, her smile growing. “And a good way to remind yourself you have the strength, patience and care to stand by them every step of the way.”