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Dateline seattle: Nora Raelynn: What’s in a Name?

My wife and I have been travelling between Houston and Las Vegas whenever we are in the U.S. The trips to both cities are tiring. But they can also be relaxing. We have been making these trips since 2014 when Xavier Paul, our first grandchild, was born in Houston. A second grandchild, Niko Gregory, was born in Las Vegas in 2016 and the Sin City has also become a favorite destination. The birth of another grandchild, Gregory Antonio, in Houston in 2016 has appeared to dash away a longer jaunt to the Philippines. With three grandchildren to visit in two states that cover almost 5,524 miles roundtrip from Seattle where we live, the flights can be uncomfortable at times, sometimes downright scary with sudden downward drop due to air pocket. But no experience is as rewarding as the joy of seeing our grandchildren. Last month another baby was born in Las Vegas. After having three rambunctious boys as grandchildren, it’s like a breath of fresh air to have a girl as a grandchild. Knowing that my daughter was expecting was grand news. I immediately wondered what the baby’s name would be. Would she carry the name Paula after her maternal great grandmother or would she claim the name Maria after her paternal great grandmother? After all, both Paula and Maria were loving individuals, though pugnacious to someone stepping out of line. Given the presence of unpredictable nincompoops and the reality of racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in today’s society, it would be timely and appropriate, I thought, to name our fourth grandchild either after Paula or Maria, hoping that the gods would bestow on the baby the same pugnacious disposition. But the baby was instead named Nora Raelynn. I was not surprised. After all, naming a baby is something quite personal to parents. I soon realized that my adult daughter – and probably her husband, too – had taken a mindset and identity significantly different from mine. She is her own person now. Nora is short for Honora, an Anglo-Norman name from the Latin for “honor.” It’s short for Eleanora, a Greek name meaning “Light.” “Rae” in Raelynn comes from the Tagalog word “Sinag” which means “ray” and ‘”lynn” is from Marilynn, obviously my daughter’s way of honoring her mom, although the word “Lynn” in itself means “waterfalls” in Old English. Sinag is my two daughters’ cousin they grew up with, and they were inseparable. Thus the name Nora Raelynn connotes light, sunshine, honor, water and when taken together signify LIFE. The connection may be a stretch, but regardless what name is given to a child, names represent the values of the parents that they want their children to internalize. In his article entitled Names and Personal Identity, H. Edward Deluzain wrote, “The bestowal of name and identity is a kind of symbolic contract between the society and the individual…Through the name, the individual becomes part of the history of society, and, because of the name, his or her deeds will exist separate from the deeds of others.” That our fourth grandchild was named Nora Raelynn and not Paula or Maria did not eliminate the thrill I experienced when she came out of her mother’s womb. I was at the hospital when my daughter gave birth. I saw my daughter breathed heavily and grimaced in pain as the nurse was calmly giving the instruction, “Push, push.” I was nervous for my daughter and the baby, silently praying for both of their safety. I was relieved when the baby’s umbilical cord was cut. Though still covered with blood, the baby was finally breathing on her own. Life in me continues. Gaining a grandbaby is indeed a wonderful experience. In another five years, Nora Raelynn will probably recognize who she is through her name. Her name will define her. Ten years after that, maybe she will be old enough to appreciate why she was named Nora Raelynn and determined enough to live up to what her name signifies. When she is able to critically think for herself, there’s something that I would like to tell her: That I and her grandma Lynn were there at the hospital room when she was born and when I first heard her cry, I knew that she, in the words of Whitney Fancher, “would long for a brighter day” not only for herself, but for others as well.

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