Week 20 - Your Name

Dear Kaylee,

It was this past Tuesday, your mother’s birthday, when an ultrasound technician told us that you were a girl. In that instant, for better or worse, many things about the way in which we perceived you changed. If it makes me an awful man, the fact that I was overjoyed to finally know that you were a she and no longer an it—then, so be it: I am an awful man. But I don’t think of gender as a prison and I hope you won’t either. The knowledge that you were a girl did not lower or significantly alter my expectations for you. If anything, it broadened them, it opened my mind to countless new possibilities. Any girl of ours would be capable of great, great things, because of the women she came from, and the women that would surround her as she grew up.

But look at me, off on a tangent. Really, the best part of finding out that you were a girl was that we finally had a name for you, and that the fact that you had a name now and were not just “baby” made you all the more real to us.

Your name, Kaylee Elizabeth Clark, was hatched out of a series of conversations your mother and I had been having in the car in the wake of our discovery that she was pregnant. Years ago, we had come up with different names for both you and your theoretical brother, names we were sure we would never tire of, never grow out of or away from. But we had grown out of them, away from them, and now we needed new ones.

I played a game with your mother when we were on the road, taking the first letter from some sign we’d just passed and building a name out of it. Most of these didn’t work. Most of them, to your mother’s mind, were just dreadful. And when I stop to think about some of the things I came up with, I tend to agree with her. But it was on one overcast afternoon, driving home from your grandparents’ house probably, that I saw a sign with a K in it, and suggested what would become your first name.

I knew a Kaley in school when I was a kid, a nice girl whose dad had coached my little league team the one year I was actually good at baseball. Kaley continued to be friendly towards me throughout middle school and high school, when other kids, other girls especially, who I had once been friends with, decided that I was no longer worth their time. So, the name already had pleasant connotations for me.

But what secured it in your mother’s mind as a right-fine choice for your name was an alternate spelling, Kaylee, which, little did we know, had been growing popularity, year after year, for the past several years. Your mother liked this alternate spelling because it payed homage to a family tradition begun by her mother and her mother’s sisters of incorporating their father’s name, Lee, into the first names of their firstborn children. This wasn’t something I had thought of when I’d playfully suggested the name, but it made sense to me.

Your mother asked me what the middle name should be and I’m sure we kicked around a few possibilities before another family tradition came to my mind, one from my mother’s side of the family. It probably wasn’t a tradition, at least not a conscious one, but it seemed like a good idea to me. My mother’s mother’s middle name had been Elizabeth. Her firstborn daughter’s middle name had been, you guessed it, Elizabeth. And the first girl of the next generation’s middle name had also been Elizabeth. So, I figured, why not continue the trend with the firstborn girl of this generation? Your mother liked the rhythm of the name and, just like that, we had a candidate. It had never before and would never again be so easy. If you had been a boy, we still wouldn’t have had a name for you, even now.

So, this week, a week in which your mother had also begun to feel you move around inside of her womb, was the week you finally had a name. You were becoming, more and more, a real, whole person to us. When I watched your lips pucker and unpucker on the ultrasound monitor like some sort of fish, that common gesture of babies the world over seemed uniquely yours. You were my daughter, my Kaylee, my beautiful baby girl.

Love, Dad

LettersE. Christopher Clark