I have never really been sure that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If we called that flower ‘ammonia’ it would have unpleasant associations in our minds. It might even change how our minds perceive the smell.
Of course, I know what he meant. He meant that when something is lovely it will remain lovely no matter what word we use to describe it. The trouble with that, though, is that names don’t usually come without associations.
My nephew and his girlfriend recently had a baby and I was pleased to hear that they had called her Millie. I have warm associations with that name. Somewhere in the family there used to be an Aunt Millie who was much-loved. There is also the all-singing all-dancing film musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, which is light and fun.
When you choose a name for a baby, you have to wrack your brain to come up with a name that you like and that strikes positive chords in your heart. You also have to dodge the landmine of traditional family names, honouring grandparents, not choosing the same name as a cousin, and so on. It’s a tricky business.
I knew what I was going to name both my children long before they were born; they were both named to recognize friends who had helped me during tough times. For this reason I was a little disappointed when my daughter recently decided to change her name. I have liked knowing there was a connection between my daughter and a very kind person whom she has never met.
Also, of course, all my memories of my daughter’s childhood are tied in with her name. When I look at old pictures it is with that name in mind. I still have the baby blanket from my sister Carol with both my children’s names embroidered on it. It will be difficult now to put a new name to those images and memories, and I am not going to retroactively re-embroider the blanket!
Despite the fact that I am still adjusting to it and that I will miss her former name, I fully support my daughter in making the change. She never felt her name was right for her, and I quite like the new name she has chosen. It is more reflective of who she is now, and it has no confining associations for her. I think that in her perception, she went from ‘ammonia’ to ‘rose,’ but she will always be a sweet and loving daughter to me, regardless of the name she is called.
I’m also grateful that she chose a name that has no associations for me. It’s a blank canvas upon which we can paint new memories. I’d better get the camera out.