A Son Is Born

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“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Do you know that line?  It’s a good one.

Well I certainly don’t want to draw any parallels here, but I would like to say that one of the greatest tricks I ever pulled was convincing my wife to let me name my son after a G.I. Joe action figure…

Growing up, I always assumed I would have three children.

While I’m original in many ways, I’m also a creature of habit.  My family was a party of five, and with three children, I always assumed I would have three of my own one day as well.  It just felt “right,” in my mind, but that was based on my own experience more than anything.

Another great line, this one from my Dad with respect to having children: “One is good, two is great, but three is like seven.”

After my first child, I slowly came to the conclusion that my Dad was right, and only two children were most likely in my future.

My wife picked the name “Maya” for our first child, as well as Maya’s middle-name, Elle.

We both, however, agreed that if our second child turned out to be girl, we would name her Scarlett.

Scarlett Rose, in fact.

“Rose” after my maternal grandmother, Rose Rosen.

That’s an odd one, right?  Rose Rosen?

What’s with the people who have a surname like “Williams” and name their kid Will?

Will Williams?

Dan Daniels?

John Johnson?

I never understood these people.

But that’s the thing when it comes to names: everybody has their reasoning.

While “George Georgeopoulos” could sound odd to you or I, it might be a dream come true for a lucky mother and father out there somewhere.  By the same token, other name styles that I might not favour can be all the rage elsewhere.

How about surnames for given-names?

Robinson, Thompson, Johnson, Jackson – these are some of the most common surnames since the 1500’s, and yet they are now some of the most popular first-names as well.

A friend of mine recently named his daughter after his wife’s maiden surname.  That’s rather “in,” these days.

And when you think about it, a name like “Carter,” which is the name of at least two of my clients’ children, is historically a surname, but now is probably just as common as a first-name too.

Walker, Turner, Lewis, etc.  They’re all now surnames, and given names.

Perhaps people just got so tired of John, William, Thomas, George, James, Robert, and Charles?

Surnames for first-names are cool.  They’re original, and they work.

But the trend of celebrities giving their children odd names?  These people should be charged with child cruelty.

Jason Lee and Beth Riegsgraf named their son “Pilot Inspektor”

Penn Jillette and Emily Zolten named their daughter “Moxie CrimeFighter”

Most people think of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s daughter “Apple,” or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s kids, “North” and “Saint,” when talking about odd baby names.  And growing up, we thought “Rumer” and “Scout,” the children of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, had unique names.  But in 2020, celebrities are just going nuts.

Or maybe they’re just ahead of the times?

The name “June” sounds entirely reasonable, even though it’s technically a month.  We might have thought that was the only month that was actually a name, but we know people named “August,” and the actress, January Jones has made that particular name sound totally common.  I’m sure if your friend named her son “September,” it might seem odd at the time, but something tells me by the time that child is in grade-school, the trend will have caught on.

A few years ago, the early 1900’s names made a huge comeback.

My niece is named “Charlotte,” and while that name was made popular by the character on Sex & The City, it is, historically, an old name.

I ran into an old friend a few years back and she introduced me to her daughter, Alice.

Alice?

That’s not a baby’s name!  That’s the name of a 72-year-old retired librarian from Des Moines, Iowa.

But names like Virginia, Rose, Grace, Clara, Hazel, Charlotte, Genevieve, Vivian, and Abby are all wildly-popular today, and were, historically, at least, “old names.”

While I don’t think that Maude, Mildred, Hattie, Blanche, Beulah, Bernice, and Fannie are making a comeback any time soon, perhaps we shouldn’t rule it out.

There are so many trends in naming our children, and although some sound odd, or different, or may not be your taste, I don’t know that there’s any right or wrong.

And so far, I’m really only talking about white people names.  That’s because I’m white, of course.  I don’t know much about Indian names, but I do have two clients named “Kulvinder,” one male, and one female.  I suspect that’s like “Taylor” or “Kelly” to us white folks.  Is that a common name in their culture?  If my friend told me she was going to name her son either Arjun or Vihaan, would I have any idea which is like “Michael” and which is like “September?”

That brings me to Scarlett, which is not only an “old name,” but also one I really like.

A colleague of mine named her daughter Scarlett, and I liked it immediately.  My niece is named “Charlotte,” and I often wondered how my brother would feel if we had “Charlotte and Scarlett” in the family, but they’re different enough that I think we could get away with it.

The name itself is beautiful, but there’s another reason why I really like it, and some of you may find it childish:

Yes, that’s Scarlett.

From the 1983 Hasbro line of G.I. Joe action figures, Scarlett was added to the lineup one year after the 3 3/4-inch figures debuted in 1982.

According to the file card that accompanied the action figure, Scarlett’s real name is “Shana M. O’Hara,” and she was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  She specializes in counter-intelligence, and is highly skilled in martial arts, having obtained her black-belt at age 15.  She started training at age 9 with her father and three brothers.  Scarlett graduated summa cum laude and passed her Bar Exams to practice law, before moving into the military.  She graduated from Advanced Infantry Training and Ranger School, and received special education in Covert Ops School, Marine Sniper School, Special Air Service School, and Marine Tae Kwon Do.  Her weapon of choice is the XK-1 power crossbow.

I mean, if that isn’t worth naming your child accordingly, I don’t know what is!

Parents name their children after any number of different people, places, things, and ideas.  I honestly thought that, whether the joke was in my head, or known aloud, naming my child after a character from a toy line and television show that defined my childhood would just be the coolest thing in the world.

And you know what?  My wife loved the name!  She didn’t care that it happened to also be the name of an action figure.

So there it was.  Scarlett Rose Fleming, if we had a girl.

My maternal grandmother, Rose Rosen, had passed away a few years earlier.  Rose was nothing like her namesake, and my mother will freely admit that.  “My mom never once hugged me, or said she loves me,” my own mother said recently about Rose.  But I think you reach a point of comfort, both in life, and with your family, where you can say things like that.

I remember at Rose’s funeral, my uncle Ian came up to me and said, “They’re about to close it up, do you want to say goodbye to Rose?”

I asked Ian, “Is it open casket?”

He confirmed that it was.

“Well,” I said, with honesty in mind, “She really didn’t look that great before she died, so I can’t imagine what she looks like now.  I think I’ll pass.”

I have a sense of humour about these things.  You have to.

But I love the name “Rose” and combined, “Scarlett Rose” sounds awesome.  One day, if my daughter wanted to go to Hollywood, or be the lead singer in an angry punk band, she could just drop the surname, and go by “Scarlett Rose.”

As we all know, the non-existent God that I don’t pray to, gave me a son, and not a daughter.  Elated that I would have a boy, which is, with all honesty, what I wanted this time around, I was somewhat saddened by the fact that the name “Scarlett Rose” would never come to be.

And so began the quest for my wife and I to come up with a boy name, which, as it turned out, would prove more difficult than we ever imagined.

Growing up, I always thought I’d have two boys and a girl (remember, I was going to emulate my own family, even though it was out of my control…) and decided I’d name them James and Michael.  The name “James” to follow my father and great-grandfather, and the name “Michael” after one of the greatest television characters of all-time: Michael Mancini from the original “Melrose Place” television show that began in 1992.

Michael Mancini was conniving and devious, but there was something about his Machiavellian ways that I admired so much.  Even though it often got him into trouble, I loved it.  It kind of reminded me of myself when I was younger.

What’s in a name, really?

All these comments we make on other people’s choices, and here we are, naming our kids after action figures and television characters?

I thought it would be cute if my daughter named my son, so I asked her what names she liked.

Alvin, Ghost, and Bobby-Doo were her choices, and try as we might to convince a 2 1/2-year-old to come up with something different, she knew the game, and stuck with these every time we asked her.

When I first suggested the name “Duke” to my wife, she thought I was joking.  I told her, “He’s the leader of the G.I. Joe’s,” but that didn’t move her.  I added, “That was also the name of my grandfather’s dog,” but she told me that this didn’t exactly strengthen my case.

Many expecting-couples will give their child a nickname when it’s in the womb.  Think of your friends who always referred to little “Johnny Appleseed” in Vanessa’s tummy.  Or for those who keep track of how large the child is, compared to household fruit and vegetables, they might say, “Our lil’ strawberry is growing every day!”

My wife and I began calling our child “Baby Duke,” and it caught on pretty quickly.

My brother and his family used the name with delight when we spent some time up at their cottage during the summer.

When it came time for the real name, however, it wasn’t as simple.

We were out for dinner one night and I told Jenna, “I really like older names.  Names that sound like names!”

So in between the French-onion soup and my New York striploin, I took out my phone and Googled “common 1800’s names.”

Amos, Ernest, Clarence, Alfred, Earl, Eugene, Francis, Isaac, Luther, Chester, Horace, Julius, Milton, Clifford, Rufus, Percy; these just didn’t do it for me.

Clyde?  I think that’s really cool.  “He’s not a racecar driver,” Jenna told me.

Jesse?  I think of “Jessie’s Girl,” the song from the 1980’s.  But it’s spelled differently.  And my wife said he sounded like an outlaw.

Elmer?  I think of the 1950’s hockey player, Elmer Lach.  That’s a cool name!  “I think of the glue,” Jenna said.  “Or the safety elephant.”

Wilbur?  I think of one of my favourite bands of all time, The Traveling Wilburys!  I played their album to Jenna on our third date, and she promptly fell asleep…

And then it hit me: Emmett.

“Emmett?” Jenna said.  “I kind of like that.”

Of course!

Emmett!

Which you all know from………..what?  Who goes by the name “Emmett,” and where is he from?

I’ll give you a hint.  Three, in fact:

1) His dog’s name is “Einstein”
2) His favourite exclamation is “Great……SCOTT!”
3) He invented the flux capacitor.

Still don’t know?

Ugh.  He has a friend named “Marty,” he enjoys driving his Delorian, and if and when he gets it up to 88 MPH, he can travel through time.

Got it?

Yes, it’s Emmett “Doc” Brown from Back to the Future!

As a child of the 1980’s, I must have watched Back to the Future, the first movie in the trilogy, a hundred times.  This series is, without a doubt, my all-time favourite, with Die Hard a close second.  I never claimed to be a cinephile, or have a great taste in movies.  I like repetition, familiarity, and the 1980’s.

So when my wife said that she liked the sound of “Emmett,” it was a done deal.

My child would be named after an icon from my childhood, just like I had planned with G.I. Joe’s Scarlett.

The only person I told about the name “Emmett” was my 9-year-old niece, who promised not to say a word to anybody.  We continued to jokingly refer to the little nugget inside my wife’s tummy as “Baby Duke,” with the name “Baby Reginald” often substituting in, since that’s an inside joke with my 6-year-old and 9-year-old nieces.

While my wife and I loved the name “Emmett,” neither of us felt the same way about the name as we did with “Maya.”  We had considered a couple of other names for Maya, very early on.  But I think we settled on “Maya” in the second month.  We only came up with “Emmett” in, like, the fifth month, maybe?

Over time, the name sort of lost its lustre.

Even though neither of us were saying, “I don’t want to use that name,” both my wife and I were continuing to bring up names, very casually, like, “Hey, what do you think of Reginald?”

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but I would say we were toward the end of the seventh month of pregnancy when I finally said, “Hey, why don’t we just call him Duke?”

We had been calling him “Duke” for seven months, but jokingly.

By now, the name had kind of stuck.

To my absolute amazement, my wife said, “I really like it.”

That reminded me of when we first saw our house, and after pooh-poohing it for a half-hour, and saying, “That’s not for us,” we were in the park about a little while later, and she said, “You know I really liked that house!”

Sometimes things turn around rather quickly, wouldn’t you say?

“Duke,” my wife said.  “It just sounds…….right.

And that was that.

There would be no Scarlett in my immediate family, but another G.I. Joe man would forever be immortalized in my family unit:

Rank: First Sargeant
Code Name: Duke
File Name: Conrad S. Hauser
Primary Military Specialty: Airborne Infantryman

First available via special “mail-in” offer in 1983, he appeared in the 1984 carded-series, available in toy-stores everywhere.

When I was a child, I thought he looked a hell of a lot like my grandfather.

I was convinced of it, in fact.

Knowing that my grandfather served in World War II, I showed him every G.I. Joe toy I owned, and asked him if he’d ever seen one in battle.  Of course, it would have been rare to see the Cobra Rattler or G.I. Joe Snowcat in Europe in 1943, but what the hell did I know.  I was five-years-old.

If you remember the G.I. Joe series, you’ll remember that the action figures all had their character drawn in “art” on the file cards.  Each character was drawn vividly, and was surrounded by this bright yellow and red light.

The Duke action figure looked like my grandfather.

But the way Duke was drawn in the comics, and on the file-card, was a dead-ringer for grampa…

Duke Richard Fleming was born at 7:01pm on Sunday, February 2nd, 2020, weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces.

His delivery took a mere 22-minutes, which must have seemed like a week for my wife, who did it without any drugs.

The irony is not lost on me – that our baby could have come any time, give or take two weeks, before and after the Superbowl, but instead, chose to come literally right at kickoff.  “Delivery” began at 6:35pm, right after the national anthem.

Duke’s middle name, Richard, is after my grandfather, Richard Clarke Fleming, and my uncle, Richard Scott Fleming.

“Uncle Rick,” as I knew him, only until the age of six, died tragically in December of 1986.  He was only 33-years-old.  My grandfather was the strongest man I ever knew, and yet he succumbed to cancer at only age sixty-three.

Both my uncle and my grandfather lived lives that were too short, and so I’m tasking my son with living his life to the fullest, in both their names.  A tall order indeed, but adversity builds strength, and strength builds character.  I only hope that my son need not experience war, which shaped the rest of my grandfather’s life, or experience a tortured soul, which ended my uncle’s.

In case it isn’t already obvious, the main reason why I’ve been able to keep this blog going, three to four times per week for thirteen years, is because I enjoy writing.  It’s not a task; it’s a passion.

Thank you for reading, and for allowing me to share.

A reader commented on Monday’s blog that perhaps I won’t be able to keep up the pace, now that I have a second child, but I assure you, nothing could be further from the case.

I’ll be back in this space on Monday with a look at January’s market stats, which are absolutely wild!

David.

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