esme means loved

Posted by on November 11, 2006


The name Esme (pronounced “ez-may”) is a word that comes from the Old French and means “loved,” or “esteemed.” Before Esme’s arrival, Jeff and I had hours of useless conversation about what we would name our baby. We could not seem to arrive at a girl’s name and kept passing suggestion after suggestion back and forth before drifting off to sleep at night. He would like a name that I wouldn’t like and vice versa. One name would have a bad association for at least one of us, or seemed too flowery, another too boring and common, another too unusual or ethnic, another too trendy, another too stuffy. So most of these name conversations ended with Jeff making obviously absurd suggestions, like “Margery” (his grandmother’s name) in a serious tone of voice, and me getting annoyed at him, before he insisted that we stop talking about it so he could get some sleep.

Right before Esme’s birth, we decided on the name Alexandra for the first name, and Esme for the second. Without going into all the reasons here, I wanted something safe for the first name– something Orthodox but not too strange and spooky for our traditional southern Protestant families to digest. Yes, I’m a coward. I didn’t want to get strange looks from parents and in-laws, or anyone else for that matter. It was such a relief to finally settle on a name– any name– that fit these and so many other convoluted criteria! We had crossed into the sought after land of name harmony, and it would be one less worry on my mind going into the birth.

The baby was but two days old when her father once again dragged her name back into the cruelty of doubt: Were we really going to call her Alex? We had both tried it a few times, and it sounded awkward as soon as it hit the air. It ricocheted off of her plastic hospital bassonet where she lay swaddled and wouldn’t forge a bond between signifier and signified. Maybe it just needed to warm up with use, I told myself. I was reluctant to re-open this most hated can of worms. But Jeff was not reluctant, perhaps because he was not the one who had just given birth. “She doesn’t look like an Alex; she looks like an Esme,” he said to me as I lay in a weary state of discomfort. I am in pain, I thought, and I cannot believe we are still having this conversation. In my weariness, I surrendered. Whatever and o.k., I thought. Let her name be Esme. Esme Alexandra.

The spur of the moment nature of the way we finally arrived at her name, after so many hours of trying to nail down something supremely meaningful and correct, still causes me to second guess our choice. I think I was holding my breath when we filled out her birth certificate. But I did have to admit even in the first few days of her life that she didn’t look like an Alex; she looked a lot more like an Esme. At least, I couldn’t think of anything she looked more like than Esme, so Esme it was.

Seven weeks later, what makes it seem right is that the name Esme means loved. She truly has love from so many sources. For example, this Sunday two very interesting, intelligent, talented adults– her godparents– are taking time out of their full schedules to fly in for the day just for Esme’s baptism. (I made Jeff pose with her baptismal dress, picked out by her godmother, in the picture above.) One is coming from Austin, Texas, and the other from New York. It occurred to me that it is a remarkable and unusual thing for an adult who is a member of your family to board a plane especially for you at any point during your childhood, moreover an adult who is not a member of your family, and moreover before you’re even two months old. Esme already has a life enveloped in love and is not even old enough to understand that it could be otherwise. This Sunday, she’ll be baptized into Christ, and nothing will be able to separate her from that love. Her baptismal name will be Alexandra after the Byzantine martyr, which, for all I know, may also become more meaningful for her as time goes on.

All of this conerning Esme’s name connected and gelled for me when I read this quote by Mother Theresa that a friend sent me. I could have skipped all my blabber above and just started with this:

I think today the world is upside down, and is suffering so much because there is so very little love in the home, and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other, there is no time to enjoy each other. Love begins at home; love lives in homes, and that is why there is so much suffering and so much unhappiness in the world today…. Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.

P.s. Stay tuned for a very serious update on Froggy.

  1. anna j
    November 11, 2006

    what an incredibly lovely post–I wondered about the meaning of “Esme” and utterly agree with the fitting nature of her name. she is blessed with birth into a family so primed to fulfill her name!

  2. Jenny
    November 13, 2006

    Dear Julia,

    Esme is a much softer, sweeter name than Alexandria. I like it a lot for her, especially the more I come to know her through these posts.

    Names are tricky. We’re totally stumped about the middle name for Natalie. Anna is begging for Pepper, but don’t you think we should have learned our lesson the first time around?

    Jen