Sunday, September 02, 2007

Food for the Soul, Sept. 2, 2007

The kids were back in school last week. After the second day of classes, our middle child asked me, "Why did you have to name me Flannery?"

It seems that her Latin teacher had asked the kids to look up the meanings of their names. Flannery discovered that Flannery translates to either "red hair" or "flat piece of metal", neither of which accurately describes her.

I explained that our choice of name for her had nothing to do with what she looks like. But there is a story behind how she became Flannery Bliss Sullivan.

My family tree is loaded with unique names. A few days ago I wrote about my grandparents, whose names were Lemma and Elmore Flavius Mitchell. A quick glance through the list of ancestors reveals a Gideon, an Opie and a Tenna. That last one, a great-great-aunt, was the last child born to a typically large Kentucky country family. Her parents seemed to have run out of creativity after the birth of the eighth child, as evidenced by child nine being named Nina, soon followed by number ten - Tenna.

When the Remarkable Marcy was pregnant with our son, we decided that we'd work with the initials C and S for his name, in honor of my father, Courtlan and Marcy's grandmother, Sadie. We didn't pre-select a name, but soon after he was born, we ended up giving him daddy's name, Courtland (we added the "d" to the end), and chose Scott for the middle name.

Before Flannery was born, we decided to work with the initials F (for my mother, Frances) and B (for Marcy's grandpa, Ben). If the child had been born a boy, we had said the name would be Benjamin Franklin - although I don't know if we'd have actually gone through with it. The girl's name, however, was proving much more difficult to come up with.

Since we had already given Courtland my dad's name, I felt it would be too weird to name the girl after my mom. We tried many different variations, wanting to find something that was unique, but that didn't sound too bizarre. And we didn't want something with a hidden meaning attached to it, like "red hair" or "flat piece of metal".

As we approached the due date, I went alone to church one Sunday. As often happens when I'm in church, my mind wanders and I found myself playing with different combinations of F and B names. Suddenly, as if it had been thrown at me from the pulpit, the name Flannery jumped out of the context of the sermon. The lector was talking about a Flannery O'Connor short story called "Revelation." Flannery. Flannery? Hmmm?

Right on the heels of that revelation (sorry), another word shot out of the sermon - bliss. The lector was suddenly talking about bliss, which she defined as "the joy of Heaven." Bliss. Flannery Bliss?

Okay, sometimes I struggle with faith. Then there are moments like this, where I'm sitting there pondering something less than one of life's great mysteries, but which has me confounded nonetheless. And an answer - I think - is handed to me on a platter.

I returned home and prefaced what I was about to suggest to Marcy with, "I hope you won't think I'm crazy, but..." She accepted it with an open mind. It's hard to completely discount a name that very well may have been delivered from God himself.

Soon after, Flannery Bliss Sullivan was born. The name fit perfectly. As does the nickname which rolled off my tongue soon after seeing her - Peach. She's delightfully sweet.

So, my dear Flannery, my Peach, don't worry too much about what some book says your name means. It's the person who defines the name, not the other way around.


Erika said...

What a sweet story. :-) I like the name Flannery too- very pretty.

Flannery said...

Thanks, daddy!=] <3

Moira said...

Now Do One About My name! :) <3