Sunday, June 7, 2009

What's in a Name?

Recently, Sophia graduated from saying “mama” to “mommy.” This change is interesting to me because I did nothing that I know of to foster it. As she became able to put two unlike syllables together, “mommy” became my preferred title. She must have picked it up from the ether, which is impressive because no one else calls me mommy. If she saw other children calling their mothers’ “mommy,” she had to have understood the gestalt of momness and generalized the word to me.

I’ve always liked the sound of “mommy” over “mama.” “Mama” makes me think of rigid rubber dolls with staring eyes and creepy monotone voices—or that short old lady who carped on her deadbeat son Francis in the comics. But not me. That is, until Sophia came along. And then, mama, her first word, was perhaps the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.

Now I mourn it’s disappearance as I do all things associated with her babyhood. Mommies hold their little girls' hand as they cross the street; mamas push carriages. Mommies make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and mac n’ cheese; mamas mash up bananas and avocados. Mommies empty potties; mama change diapers. How is it that I am already a mommy?

But before I had any time to adapt to my new title, Sophia called me a name that really took me aback.

When Daddy pointed to me one morning and said, “Who’s that?” Sophia replied, nonchalantly, “Mee-sa.” Kevin was charmed and made her repeat it over and over again. I was not amused.

Of late, Sophia has been interested in knowing everyone’s name. Mornings, I hear her reciting them to herself as she waits for me to retrieve her from her crib: “An-drew. AN-drew. Aa-bee. LEE-ah. EL-la. Er-i-KA. Pa-pa.” Apparently, she has discovered my true identity.

I used to be one of those people who thought it was cool when kids called their parents by their first names. I thought it signifed respect and equity. I wanted to do it with my parents, ("Hi Judi! What's up Lenny?") but I could never actually make myself say it. Now, hearing my name on my daughter’s lips, I instantly changed my mind. Not cool.

I am Melissa to everyone. But there is only one person in this world who can call me mama. Or mommy. Or mom.

To me, this is sacred.

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