Mel and I spent a lot of time discussing what to name our first child. We picked out a few boys’ names and a few girls’ names, but shit didn’t get real until we found out we were having a boy. That’s when our discussions turned into arguments.
Mel wanted to name our first boy Reese, which I saw as a little too feminine, and far too close to the name of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. At the time, I prided myself on being a little wacky. On being the kind of guy with a strong sense of humor, and I wanted my son to be an expression of that. Basically, I wanted to make a joke out of everything, even naming my son. So I suggested, with all sincerity, that we named him Ebakanezer.
I’d love to say that I put a lot of thought into this name. That it was a play on Nebuchadnezzar, the Neo-Babylonian King, and Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous Christmas curmudgeon. My son’s name would be the perfect mix of Biblical and Dickens spiritual redemption. But no. I didn’t think of that at all. If I recall correctly, I actually tried to suggest the name Ebenezer, but due to a slip of the tongue, it came out Ebakanezer. I liked the sound of it in the moment, so I stuck with it.
Mel, not surprisingly, looked at me like I’d taken off my pants in public.
“Ebakanezer? Are you kidding me? Do you hate our child?” she asked.
I tried to argue with her, telling her that it would be a fun name. “No one would ever forget him. And it would make him tough. Kind of like the boy named Sue. He turned out okay.”
Mel wouldn’t have it. I told my mother that I wanted the name. At first she struggled to say it back to me. Then she paused for a moment. And finally she said I was being mean. She even repeated what Mel said: “You’d really have to hate your kid to name him that.” When I told my sister my plan, she said, “Only a jerk would name their son Ebakanezer.” And when Mel told her mother my plan, she laughed long and hard. She stopped after looking at the sincerity in my face. “You’re not joking?” she asked.
When I think back on these conversations, I realize that the reason I wanted to name my son Ebakanezer was because I wanted him to be a reflection of how I saw myself in my early 20’s. I wanted people to say, that's definitely Clint’s son. He’s a crazy funny guy, and obviously the way he named his son reflects that. Trying to name my son Ebakanezer was a selfish act. I didn’t really think about how other kids would treat him after hearing it. I thought about how other people would treat me after hearing it.
After a few days of trying to convince Mel to name our son Ebakanezer, I gave up. I suggested a few other names: Jimbo, Jimmy-Bop, The Jimmer, and a few other ridiculous variations of Jim. And with each suggestion, I could tell that Mel was starting to think I was crazy. It started to be a real source of tension in our marriage. After a week of me suggesting zany names, Mel just stopped talking to me. It was easy to tell that she felt I wasn’t taking things seriously, and honestly, I wasn’t. When I think back on this moment, I realize that although I thought that I was mature and ready to be a father at age 24, I was still a complete dumb ass.
For as long as I can recall, Mel has always been the voice of reason in our marriage. And I suppose it’s for the best, because if we had named our son Ebakanezer, I think he’d have murdered me in my sleep by now.
Finally I suggested Flip. A friend of mine from high school had an uncle named Flip. He owned an auto shop in town, “Flip’s Car Care.” It seemed just zany enough, but not too zany. Something that was fun and a reflection of who I was, but not outwardly strange.
Mel thought about it for a moment. Then she said, “How about for a middle name? It could be a variation of your grandfather’s name, Philip.”
It’s funny how that simple compromise really changed things. I suddenly felt better about the whole naming thing. I felt like I still was able to give him that little bit of humor. I told Mel that I hoped he would go by his middle name once he was older.
I can’t recall how we decided on naming him Tristan, but I think I was the one who suggested it. I’d heard the name in the move Legends of the Fall. And now that Tristan is 7 years old, I couldn’t see him being named anything else… especially Ebakanezer.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley