For most of my life, until I was around 15, I thought that my maternal grandmothers name was “Dolly”. That’s what my Papa called her, that’s how other family members addressed her. Then, when I was 15, I learned that her name was actually Julia. I remember thinking to myself “if you have a name as beautiful as Julia, why would you want to be called ‘Dolly’?”. It was then that I decided that if/when I ever had a daughter that she would be named Julia. 

Several years later, when I was dating my (now ex) husband, we attended the wedding of my cousin. Shortly afterwards, he and his new wife announced that they would be naming a future daughter ‘Julia’, after our Nana. I made it clear that I had laid claim to that name years before them, but that I had no problem with multiple Julia’s in the family. I considered it a tribute to my Nana, who had since passed away.

Fortunately, I was the one who got pregnant first (albeit accidentally) and I willed that baby into having a vagina so that I could have my name. It worked, and in 2007 I had my Nana’s namesake.  From day one she had my Nana’s feisty-ness. Minutes after she was born she had to be suctioned, and I remember her grabbing the tube and yanking it out of her mouth with both of her tiny hands.

A few years later, at bedtime, both kids were asking me about their name and where they came from. I first explained to Alex that we had a few names picked out for him if he turned out to be a boy, and when he was born we took a delivery room poll to choose between the two names we liked best (Devon was our other choice). The results were unanimous that he was definitely an ‘Alex’, so that is what we went with. When my fraternal grandparents visited him in the hospital and learned what his name would be my grandfather asked “what kind of a name is that?”. (In my Italian family it’s customary to name the boys after the paternal grandfather, but at that point we already had like four “Josephs” and I didn’t think we needed another one)

I gave Julia the backstory about her name, and then I went on to say that I would always be sad that she would never know the woman she was named for. How she never raised her voice, but could silence you with a look, how she always smelled good, how her nails were always perfect, how she was sharp and quick witted, and died way too soon. I told her that her Nana would have adored her, and how much they would have loved each other.

Julia was quiet for a moment, thinking over what I had told her. Then she said “I have my Nana’s name, and I’m always gonna keep it safe”. She was six. I had to leave the room to call my mom to relay the conversation, and we cried on the phone together.

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