a name and a blessing

Zayda (or Zaida as it’s spelled more often in translations from Arabic) means fortunate one.

Really, there seems no other word better suited for this little girl. She’s been fortunate enough to be loved and cared for before she was even born, and she has a circle of family and friends around her now that only continues to grow.

Blessing gown made by Zayda's yaya Valerie
Sunday Zayda was blessed by her grandfather with all her uncles around her; a blessing is a wonderful way to welcome a new person to the world. 

Uncle Doug, Uncle Michael, Zayda & Papa Michael, Uncle Eldon

tiny pink toes peaking out..
In part, she was blessed that she would make a family of her own and continue to build the family she was already a part of.

She has such good examples of what this looks like already. This blessing day half the church was filled with her family. She was surrounded by rows of cousins and aunts and uncles as she was snuggled soundly in a blessing gown made by her Yaya, in the arms of her great-grandmother. After church carloads of family, some related by blood others connected by circumstance or happenstance, gathered around the kitchen to share a meal. Zayda is fortunate that she’s been born into a family where this sort of gathering is always special but nothing unordinary. Making a group of individuals into a family takes work. It’s work worth doing, and she’s lucky to begin her life around people who already know that. I hope she’ll prioritize it as she grows older, that need to build the family you’re a part of, to make a family of your own.

Zayda, two months
I first heard the name Zayda years ago when I was reading a lot of Arabic stories with my high school students as we studied Israel and Palestine; I thought it was very pretty then.  I was helping my Grandma Elda write her family history at about the same time and while writing about her mother Eulalia Elzada. I thought either of those would be great family names for a little girl–maybe with Layla or Zayda as a nickname. And then I only named boys for the next decade.
Zayda, one day old
After I knew I was having a girl I kept thinking about Zayda. I like the sound and meaning, and although I don’t especially like the tradition of giving kids names others still living already have, I like names that remind me of the important people in my life. Each time I thought of this name it reminded me a little of my grandma—the grandma who told me stories about her mother, the grandma who told me last fall she needed a baby to hold (after which I’d pointed out I had four younger siblings she could talk to about that), the grandma who told me over and over she needed a little girl once I told her I was pregnant (after which I had to remind her I was the one followed by a swarm of little boys).

First picture of all five kids together. :)
My grandma always gives me a hard time about my kids and their crazy names. I think she shook her head and rolled her eyes when I told her most of the names for the first time. Azia’s middle name may have even got a “For land sakes.” I think it was about two years before she could remember Zoran’s name. When I took this newest little person to meet her for the first time and told her Zayda’s name she just looked at me for a few minutes. Just when I though she was going to say something about another bizarre name she just said, “That sure sounds an awful lot like my mom’s name.”

Grandma Elda and Zayda meeting for the first time
When I told her it kind of was like her mom’s name and that’s partially why I liked it, she squeezed Zayda (who was in her arms at the time) in a big hug and said, “Well that’s a wonderful name. I’ll never forget that one.”

And now I love it even more.  I never got the chance to really know my great-grandmother, but I love the connection between her and my daughter and my grandmother. I love that my daughter has a name unique enough that most people won’t associate it with anyone but whoever she becomes.  But I also love how happy it makes my grandma that there is this connection between her mother and her newest granddaughter. “My mother would have loved that,” she told me, “she would have been so happy. Boy, did she love all her babies.”

One of Zayda’s middle names is Aurora. I love this name for a number of reasons. Partially it seemed fitting just because this summer the northern lights were out and visible more than any time I remember. We had no many beautiful summer nights right before she was born.  
June 28, 2013. Photo by Cordell Hardy
Aurora borealis also still reminds me of both my grandmas as well. Whenever I see the lights or hear people talking about them, I think of how bright they were just as we were saying goodbye to my Grandma Lettie.
November 10, 2007. Photos by Michael
I also think of my Grandma Elda and how her story about me saying “aurora borealis” when I was just a few years old has always been one of her favorites to tell…for more than three decades now.

meeting Zoran for the first time

But what I like most about Aurora is it it has basically the same meaning as Zoran. Aurora is Latin and Zoran is Serbian, but both mean dawn or daybreak. Their names are two different words for the same thing--that first light of the day. I love that connection between the two of them because from the first minutes we told the kids we were having another baby, Zoran was more excited than anyone. He knew immediately it was a girl (though none of the rest of us had any reason to think he was right for a couple months) and he made pictures, designed cards, and wrote letters for her pretty much every single day from the day he learned she was coming until she was born. He was concerned about getting everything she needed before she arrived, and he still makes her things all the time. He continues to look out for her and watch over her. 

I love to listen to him talk to her and he spends a lot of time thinking about her and their future together. (“Mom, I’m always to be very, very nice to her so she’ll like me a lot when she’s bigger and we can do things together.”)

Zayda, one week
Aurora is also the Roman goddess of dawn. It seemed a little ironic to be giving a daughter of mine a name with that sort of association, but so far, she is a very happy morning person. She wakes up with a huge smile almost every morning, stretches out her tiny arms and legs, smiles and starts babbling and smiling at everyone.

Mahayla was chosen by her father, and her last name is his last name, too. Since we couldn’t agree on any one name, she ended up with four. Four seems like sort of a lot of names for one very little girl, but as we were discussing this in the hospital before going home, I looked over at her with Azia and Jenna, two of my most favorite girls ever, and decided it seems this four-name thing is working out well so far for those two. So Zayda gets to join their club. 

This many-name approach makes filling out government documents awkward, but this way she’ll have a lot of choices when she decides to hate whatever name she is using when she gets to that stage in life where you decide your parents are wrong about most things, including whatever they decided to name you.

But so far she seems pretty happy with whatever people decide to call her. She's pretty happy most of the time. Hopefully it's a pattern that continues.

Her Papa also blessed her that she would arrange her life so that she was always moving toward good. She has a wonderful group of people, of all different ages, who have her pointed in the right direction.

Welcomed home by the boys. . .

. . . and the girls.

A bunch of the cousins and friends with their guesses back when we didn't know if we were expecting a boy or girl. . . right before they covered each other in bright pink paint!

1 comment:

  1. WOW! This was such a great read. Shed tears numerous times in regards to how strong your family is and what a blessed little girl she will be.