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Around the Kitchen Table

Maureen Weber


Fear not! For I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine . . . (Isaiah 43:1).

The sun is shining onto the wood floor where my cats are catching some rays. Any closer to the window and they will feel winter’s blue hands pressing against the glass. The two of them can comfortably rest in the middle of the floor because this is the first quiet day in 10 days. I’m both enjoying the third cup of coffee this morning, at 10:30, in sweats, and lamenting said quiet. Christmas tree decorations throw beads of light, Anissa’s high chair is in the kitchen with the crumbs from yesterday’s breakfast, and the baby gates are resting by the wall. I’m not ready to put anything away.

Our family has expanded to nine children — four of our own, their four spouses, and now one grandchild. Among the lot of us there are also six cats and one dog. Only one son-in-law, Nohé, was unable to join us over the Christmas holidays, but Bear the dog did. It was a full house.

Sometimes when my children are together I find myself thinking about their names. The name is the person, but how did it get that way? Is personality influenced by name? Would they be different people if they had different names?

Before a child is born, parents consider what they will call their little one. Sometimes we just like the sound, some are named for a saint, sometimes names are invented, a child may be named after a family member, and some names reflect the family heritage of the father or mother.

Before our grandchild was born we knew she was going to be a girl, and so the surprise I looked forward to was hearing her name spoken for the first time. When Leigh spoke the baby’s name into the phone, I had to ask her to repeat it, because I’d never heard the name before. Anissa. Her beautiful name reflects her father’s Arab heritage. Anissa’s large dark eyes and impish playfulness, her good humour and robust appetite (encore!), have become the meaning of Anissa.

I doubt we think about our names very often, but it is the gift we are given from the moment we are born, and it becomes one with our soul. When I hear my name spoken, especially by my husband, I have the sense, for a moment, of feeling whole. When someone pronounces our name or the name of a loved one incorrectly, it feels like a fracture. I have taken photos of cups from Starbucks baristas when they get my name wrong (Morin? Marine?), and have seen others’ Facebook posts of “Starbucks name fails.” A simple mistake with one’s name, even from a stranger, is not only annoying, it’s jarring.

At 15 months old, Anissa is picking up new words every day. “Chee” (cheers) when she lifts her sippy cup to my coffee cup and they clink together; “chat” when the kitties walk by (French is mixed with English); or “up,” her favourite word. Ask her to say Anissa and she says “Sa” with an emphatic whisper and a satisfied smile.

Two days after Anissa arrived for the Christmas holidays, I was reading at the kitchen table when she toddled over in her Christmas pjs and, without prompting, said “Nana.”

The idea of being a grandparent is something I’ve been adjusting to ever since this little one was conceived. We have spent the past year getting to know Anissa, but I was not prepared for the impact of hearing her call me by my new name — Nana — the person she recognizes me to be. Until I was named, the concept of being a grandparent did not feel real.

I have called you by name, you are mine . . .