Feb 1, 2016

Naming, and Strong Women

I have very strong-willed daughters (and sons) and while this presents some struggles right now as I try to parent them, I wouldn't want it to be different. Because strong women are kind of my heritage, and my husband's as well.

Jeff and I have a lot in common, family-tree-wise, actually. (Ok, nothing creepy. Our closest ancestral connection is that we are 11th cousins 1 time removed. We've checked.) I mean circumstances. Even before I married Jeff, I was struck by the similarities in our background, namely, the backgrounds of the women who raised us.

Jeff's mother lost her mother to cancer when she was 14. It was a slow, heartbreaking struggle for the family, which left behind children ranging from age 6 to age 20. Jeff's grandfather remarried quickly--within two years--to an amazing, wonderful woman who took over raising the girls (and later had a son), and she is the grandmother Jeff has always known.

My mother lost her mother to cancer when she was 4. It was a slow, heartbreaking struggle that lasted nearly a decade, and in the midst of this struggle, she chose to have a daughter, for which I will always be grateful. My grandfather remarried quickly--within two years--to an amazing, wonderful woman who took over raising my mother (and later had a son), and she is the grandmother I have always known.

Both of these women--the ones who came into our mothers' lives after losing mothers--are now the only living grandparents Jeff and I have left, and we are so grateful for them. They are loving, strong women, and have never been anything other than our grandmothers, related by blood or not. Both of us have experienced the miracle of adoption in our lives, and I think it's likely part of the reason why Jeffrey and I were lead to adopt as well. There's no "half sister, half brother, stepmother" in any of this. We are, and always have been, family.

But these women whom neither of us have met--grandmothers on the other side of the veil, we'd say--have always been family as well. I've felt my biological grandmother's influence in my life, and I'm pretty sure Jeff has, too.

Jeff's maternal biological Grandmother, Fern Lillian Moulton, was older-than-usual-for-small-Utah-towns when she married his grandfather. While her siblings called her a "noble lady", she was also something of a modern woman. She learned to drive young, working at her father's gas-station. She was an activist, an intellectual, and she was very active in her community. She raised her oldest two children, for the first few years, while her husband sailed in WWII. She passed strength, intelligence, a strong morality and independence on to all her daughters.

My maternal biological Grandmother, Ardis Clasen Swan, was very young when she married my grandfather; 18. She was determined, driven, intelligent and had a sharp sense of humor. She had a very strong idea of right and wrong. She was one of the first woman bankers in California, and she continued to work all the way to the end of her illness. She was classy and beautiful and strong and striking. Looking at her pictures, I almost can't believe that someone with that much life in her could have passed away so young.

I'm writing about this because we have decided to give our last baby--a girl--their names. They are unusual names, and I know some people will wonder where we got them from.

I have always felt strongly about giving my children names that they can look to as great examples. My kids are Emma Josephine (named after two heroines in Womens' Literature, and also a prophet and his wife), Woinshet Miriam (a name with Christian symbolism from her homeland, and the mother of Christ), Meaza Elizabeth (a name from her homeland meaning "lovely aroma," and a strong woman from the bible), Ruth Allison (Ruth from the bible, my mom), Samuel Evans (bible and book of Mormon prophet, a great friend in LOTR, and a family name from Jeff's side), Hazel Grace (both Jeff's and my paternal great-grandmothers' names), Daniel Robert (a bible prophet and my grandfather), David Curtis (Jeff's grandfather and a reference to the Curtis line in my family, whose culture has greatly influenced my life).

And now, we're giving our littlest and last child the name of two strong women we've never met, but whose influence has and continues to infuse our lives--

Fern Ardis.

As I said, unusual names. But names we find very lovely, because we have heard them all our lives spoken with reverence and respect and love, names that I hope will bring them even closer to us as an influence on us and our family and our last little girl.