Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maddy is Where?

(Scene: Me, in What-used-to-be-a-nice-department-store-back-in-the-day, but is now a store-spread-way-too-thin-that-always-looks-like-a-bomb-went-off-and-it's-quiet-as-a-church-and-impossible-to-find-people-to-give-your-money-to. But they were having an insane sale on something I needed for $20, so there I was looking imploringly at the saleslady who was helping someone else.)

Saleslady: I'm going to be a while. Why don't you go to Housewares? Maddalena is in Housewares.

Me: (out loud) That's Auspicious!

And I practically ran to housewares to see . . . her. Maddalena. This is the first time in almost three years I have ever, ever encountered another person face to face with her name. Sure, I've faced a boatload of Maddy's and Maddie's but none of them were derived from the whole which I carry around. I had a million questions: What did she look like? Was she Italian? Was someone in her background Italian? Or did the name come from elsewhere and if so where? Was she smart? Nice? Pretty? Intelligent? Old? Young? . . . .

She was . . . . Asian. Which brought up at least 20 more questions to add to my million. She was young, in her twenties, pretty enough but . . . .

Ohmygod, grumpy. Sour. Looked pissed off. My eyes bore a hole through her nametag (spelled with one "d", huh, how about that), and I wanted desperately to simply say,

"I love your name."

And couldn't bring myself to do it, because the look on her face said that she may very well respond with "I fucking hate it," and then where would I be?

I don't blame her remotely -- hell, I'd be a cranky beyotch if I worked in that place even for limited hours, and lord only knows what else she has on her plate (boy trouble? School to study for? Up late? Sick?), but I felt as though my opportunity to know a Maddy -- a real one, a live one -- was slipping through my fingers. Definitely not a person on which to lay my connection to her name. I fought the impulse to rip off my bracelet and show her the name engraved inside.

All within about 90 seconds.

"I'll put your receipt in the bag."


Have you ever met someone in real life -- in a surprise sort of situation -- bearing your dead child's name? Did you say anything? Was it what you expected? Or kinda like something out of "Twin Peaks"?


Michele said...

I remember a little boy coming into my library and he was so proud of his library card, coming up to the desk, he said "My name is Nicholas and I want to check out this book." He was adorable... I remember saying, before I could help it, "My son's name is Nicholas". He was so excited, he told me that his dad's name was Nicholas, and a slew of other things. An adult would have asked "How old is your son" but not a child. He was just happy in his name.

I went back to my office afterwards and just sobbed like a baby. But I was glad I talked to him. He brought a little light to that day.

Beth said...

There's a dr. in my not-very-large city that has my daughter's first name - June - and my last name, which is not a common name at all (rather than my husband's last name which is the one that we gave her). Throughout the entire pregnancy with my son, nurses and doctors and technicians KEPT ASKING IF I KNEW HER. It was completely freaky. Somehow it's the combination I find bizarre -- and with that combo I DON'T want to meet her. Very strange.

Tash said...

Beth, that is EXTREMELY freaky. I'm not sure I'd want to meet that one, either.

Audrey said...

Ava, Eva (pronounced with a short e), and Evelyn, but I have not met an Eva IRL yet. Even those approximate names make me wistful, so I am not sure how I would handle a real life Eva. I'd probably drool a little.

janis said...

Selfishly, I wished you had told her. It wld have made for a more juicy story, perhaps more colorful, with expletives.
But gosh, I could imagine how you felt...
I have never met a Ferdinand IRL, don't think I ever will. It seems like a name that belongs to the past, but you never know. You know how names can suddenly and freakily come into renaissance.

But how about your eggplant? I don't think "aubergine" sounds too badly. In fact I quite like it. I can't wait. xoxo

k@lakly said...

There is a little boy in my daughters class. He's been in her class ever since kinder, the year Caleb died. He died the weekend before school started. I had never met another Caleb before that. When I missed the first day of school, having just gotten home from hosp the day before but filled out the packet that came home offering to volunteer in class one day a week.
Two weeks later, my first day back to 'real life' I went in to her class and was told to go down the list of names on the table in the back of class, calling each child back to read to me. First name I had to call out, you guessed it. Caleb.
It killed me. I wanted this boy to be some sweet, adoable child that I could hover over and I don't know, imagine what my son would have been like maybe. Instead he's annoying and a liitle obnoxious and I find myself angry that it is his face that comes to mind when I hear the name Caleb(which I do on a daily basis now) even though my heart is somewhere else completely.
I hate it.

Beruriah said...

Yeah, because Natan is not an uncommon name in Israel.

At the JCC where Baby Man first went to daycare, there was a Natan in his group. I didn't feel any connection to him whatsoever (I didn't to any other babies other than Baby Man until recently). I did tell his parents that I love the name, and that it's a family name, and that Baby Man's middle name is Nadav in honor of it.

Which made more sense to them than it would to you. Nadav means "generous one" or "generous giver" and Natan "God has given."

Beruriah said...

Oh, and I meant to also comment on your experience. It's weird when our fantasies conflict with the mundane in such glaring ways.

You know obviously it means nothing about Maddy, who she would have been. But then, I know how it feels kind of wanting it to.

angie said...

I love that she was kind of a pretty disenfranchised housewares person. Something so...normal and non-otherworldly about that. If she was a hauntingly beautiful philosopher/supermodel/guru, that one would have been hard to swallow, I think.

Interestingly, this past year, I have been connecting with a lot of my cousins in Panama through Facebook. To put some perspective on this, I grew up in the US, while all of my cousins (minus 7) grew up in Central or South America. So, I am just getting to know my 49 first cousins, and 57 second cousins, some of which are my age since my mother is second youngest. I have a cousin, not much older than me, who had a daughter a few months before Lucia named Lucia. My mother did not even know that. We didn't become "friends" until after Lucy died, but one day, I would like to meet this Lucy, especially since her husband is Swedish, so the little girl would have similar mixed race features as my children. I haven't built up the gumption to look at her pictures, though, so maybe the meeting her in person thing is a bit, um, unrealistic.

Lachlan's Mum said...

Lachlan is one of the most popular names in Australia right now. I hear the name on the radio from time to time, and it makes me sad, but I have a feeling that there is a whole generation of little Lachlan's growing up who I'll encounter in the coming years.

A football player lost a son to stillbirth recently, and they named him Lachlan Mark - the same names we chose for our son. It took my breath away.

after iris said...

Yes, not long after Iris died I met a little girl called Iris who was about 4-years-old at a kids' triathlon (I was a volunteer pointing the way from the pool to the track.) Her big sister was competing. I don't really remember her apart from the shock of the name and my mother's reaction which was to look at me intensely to see if I was OK.

I am unfairly possessive about the name Iris to the point where someone mentioned it as a suggestion in one of Niobe's name threads and I was stricken, isn't that ridiculous? I'm so irritated by that trait in myself.

niobe said...

My dead babies don't have names.

Problem solved.

debbie said...

Every time I meet someone named Maya i get this feeling like I've just met a ghost. I also get the feeling that I'm meeting someone who is showing me just a little bit of what could have been. But most importantly, I ALWAYS feel warm inside like somehow, for that moment, I am close to her again.

loribeth said...

That's pretty wild!

"Katie" is a fairly common name, & "Kathleen" (her proper name) is a family name (one of the reasons why we chose it), so yes, I have heard it. It does give me a slight pause, though. Especially when it's a little girl.

Tash said...

@Michele, K@l, Beruriah, Angie, Loribeth: I think my attitude would have been much, much different if the M in question was an almost three-year-old. Since I knew it was an adult of some sort going in, I was intensely curious -- I feel as though as I have an empty vessel that could be filled with just about anything.

biojen said...

I picked Aiden without really searching for another name because I had always liked it and it meant flame (you know - short, bright life). My husband thought it was fine and I desparately wanted him to have a name before he died so Aiden it was. The monday after I had him I took my daughter to school and the worker I don't like started yelling at her son, named, you guessed it, Aiden. Turns out Aiden was the most popular name of 2009. When I heard this I thought, of course, why not twist the knife damn near everyday.

But we finally picked a middle name and it is really a girls name (Wren - for the carolina wren outside my window that brings me peace) so I'm hoping I won't hear that one often. I selfishly want to keep him to myself.

Anonymous said...

Warning: Off topic.

Delurking to say that I just finished reading your entire blog from the beginning (took a few days). While I have not had a stillbirth or lost an infant, I have had 2 miscarriages and struggled with infertility for 5 years. I am currently 18 weeks pregnant with our first (hopefully live) child, and my mother said something that has stuck with me. She called herself "cautiously optimistic". I think this is particularly appropriate in our situations and I wanted to share it with you.
I'll be a regular follower from now on, though I don't always comment. I'm looking forward to your good news mid-May, and mine mid-late June.


B's Mom said...

My son took swimming lessons this summer. He had a few instructors and I didn't know all their names. The last day one of them said, "Our names are almost the same, but mine is spelled B-R-E-N-N-A, Brenna." I felt like I was punched in the gut.

Bon said...

now, the name makes me smile when i encounter it, which still isn't terribly often.

it's always on a child, it's a name that was on the rise when i picked it, so i've never had that kind of store encounter. but once i met a mom with a new baby named Finn, and i had to turn away to hide the sudden Mack Truck that ran over my face and the tears that welled up. not even sadly, just, wham: this is what coulda been.

the time only about 4 months after his death when a coworker held out a box of Finn Crisp crackers at the lunch table and said "want one?" and suddenly the image of cremation overcame me and i struggled not to laugh maniacally and shout "already had one!", though? that was, um, big.

ms. G said...

M's name is not super common, and the first time I heard it was in a store, belonging to a boy about 3. This was in the year after his birth/death, so this boy was older. He was running around, having a wee bit of trouble staying with his mom, so we heard it through the entire shopping trip, "M !! M!!! stay by mommy!" which, actually, both Mr. g and I found amusing. Since then, I have heard it a few more times, I think the name is picking up in popularity.

As for IZ's name, it is more common and I'm sure I will run across it several times. Sometimes I wish I could have done like Niobe, so I wouldn't have to hear their names ever. Other times, it makes me smile.

I kinda wish you would have asked her about her name. I'm curious how she received it.

Alice said...

Thanks for the lovely post - and for your kind comments on my blog. I do meet Lauras all the time and, oddly, I don't really notice that much. Sometimes I'd like to say - you have the same name as my dead daughter. But I never do. I'd be frightened that the person would just look bored and embarrassed - and even if they said something nice would it help at all? Probably not! Alice

Elle said...

Yes, it happened on Sunday in the three-to-five-year-old inner city mission school class I taught. I was drawn to a beautiful, delicate little boy. I gasped when I saw his name tag on which was written my son's name--Christopher. He and I repeatedly gazed at one another during the class. I felt a connection, and I wanted to take this precious child home with me. I thought maybe his mom wouldn't care or even notice, that she probably had at least eight other children. Alas, I came to my senses.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Tash. All the best to you; I know that these next two weeks are not easy ones for you.

On top of the twenty seven point six (holy sh..) inches of snow that is. We just sat in front of the news with our mouths open as the totals kept going up.

Hope you're dug out, or snug warm with a lot of junk food and junk movies.

Kind thoughts headed your way.


c. said...

We were at the beach last summer when I heard Callum's name said for the first time. A real little boy: Callum. And I think I will always remember that moment, when I got to see a Callum for the very first time. Nor will I get over the fact that this Callum wasn't mine.

Sophie said...

I remember going into a chemist to get some moisturiser. When I was standing there with my son another salesperson walked up to this other saleperson and called her name. It was Jordan. I kept looking at her, wanting to tell her how much I liked her name (just like you) only I couldn't do it, not without telling her about my Jordan and I didn't really want to open that particular door (it was only a few months after her death.) I remember how Caelan reacted to hearing the name. He was very excited and kept looking at her too.

I did not know her full name was Maddalena. It's beautiful.