black and jewish

How Martin Luther King Helped Name My Daughter

It took my husband and I under a minute to pick a name for our oldest son.

I said, “Adam?”

He said, “Adam!”

That was easy. My husband noted, “People will think we wanted a Jewish name, opened the Bible to the first page and said: There, good enough.”

It took us until I was actually filling out the birth certificate at the hospital to pick a name for our second son.

Gregory. (Hebrew name: Barak.)

Ultimately, he turned out to be so different in temperament from his brother that we wonder why we even bothered giving him his own moniker. Within minutes of meeting him, people are wont to burst out, “He’s certainly Not Adam!”

We should have just called him that.

With my daughter, the naming process was complicated by the fact that, for the first twenty weeks, I was sure I was having another boy. And for the second, by my conviction that she’d be born early.

My oldest was born four weeks ahead of schedule. His brother two weeks. I felt certain their baby sister would not be born on her due date: Martin Luther King Day. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I’d be delivering on Christmas, all alone in a staff-free hospital with tumbleweeds blowing by to add to the ghost-town effect. (As we were finally walking to the hospital on that very cold day in January, I told my husband, “This is the most pregnant I’ve ever been in my life!”)

We went through a whole list of girls’ names–and by we, I mean, me; my husband did not offer forth suggestions, he merely systematically vetoed mine.

For a while there, we seemed to have settled on Scarlett. But, I’ll admit, I pulled the plug on that one. At the last minute, I just didn’t have the balls to saddle a little African-American girl with the name Scarlett. (Though, subsequently, I did learn that, these days, it’s much more likely to invoke Johansson, than O’Hara.)

So there we were, at the hospital with our newborn, nameless baby daughter. On Martin Luther King Day.

It was my brother (also named Martin, and a mythology buff) who made a comment about the name Martin coming from Mars, the Roman god of war. And that Mars’ Greek equivalent was Ares.

Cue the epiphany!

“Ares?” I looked at my husband.

“Ares!”

But, then we took it a step further. We’d agreed from the start that the baby’s middle name would be Camille, after my husband’s late grandmother.

So: Ares Camille.

Put it together and you get: Arielle, her Hebrew name. (I know, it’s a long, winding way to get there. Believe me, I know.)

Which is how, five years ago, my family ended up with a little girl named after the god of war… and a man of peace.

I figured if he could overcome the contradiction, so could she.

Alina Adams

Alina Adams is a mother of three, and the NYT best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, romance novels, and figure-skating mysteries. Her latest is "Getting Into NYC Kindergarten," the book of tips and inside secrets for those who can't afford a private consultant to guide them through the Draconian processes of finding an acceptable school, but still care deeply about their children's education. She has a Master's degree in Media Analysis and can tell you the subtext and/or ruin your enjoyment of most movies, plays and TV shows. Learn more at: www.AlinaAdams.com.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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