1. During your 20s and 30s, date every inappropriate man you can find. At age 35, realize that you’ve become that Roy Lichtenstein print of the pixelated woman with a tear running down her cheek. Smack your forehead and watch the thought bubble loom above you. “I forgot to have a baby!” Promise yourself on your 38th birthday, if you’re still single, you’ll DIY it.
2. Online at the sperm bank, browse through so many options that you begin to cry. Punch in any criteria and watch it spew out profiles of potential co-creators of your future child. Plug in JEWISH, plug in LEFT-HANDED. Even though you will probably never meet this man, bask in the comfort that whoever he is, he has probably eaten gefilte fish at least once in his life.
3. Learn you are having a girl! No bris!
4. Be born in the ‘70s to hippie parents so your first and middle name rhyme. For the rest of your life, when you run into camp friends at airports, they will remember nothing about you except your name, “Adina Sabrina!”
Understand that in the Jewish tradition, you have been named after the dead: the A is for your mother’s grandfather, Uncle Artie, who thought being called “grandpa” made him sound old. He died on the toilet of a heart attack at age 65. The S is for your father’s mother Sylvia whom you never knew because she died of breast cancer when he was a teen.
5. Remember that your dead mother Judy, not Judith, hated her name. Your sister stole the only good J name for your niece: Juniper. So many beloved relatives on your mother’s side, the Moss side, are gone: Judy, Grandma Diane, your great-grandmother Hannah and your favorite person in the world, Aunt Shirley. Struggle to choose who to honor and how.
6. Feel absolutely shattered when, in your first trimester, your mentor, Melissa, dies by suicide. Now you definitely need an M: for the Moss family and for Melissa. Decide that Moxie is your daughter’s middle name.
7. Make it to your second trimester. Your married friends will tell you how lucky you are to not have to fight or compromise about a name. You will be told how lucky you are to be a single parent for the rest of your life.
8. In your third trimester, go to Chinatown for your 40th birthday. The Jews consider it bad luck to throw a baby shower, so ask your guests that, in lieu of gifts, they bring three girls’ names. Provide the initials D, H, S, J, M and K for your paternal grandfather Kalman, and reap the rewards:
Sunshine Mahogany Klein
Jezebel Kierkegard Klein
Dandelion Hangover Klein
Mimosa Dingleberry Klein
Divine Kangaroo Klein
9. Give birth to your daughter three weeks early: a Passover baby. The 36 hours of labor without an epidural will feel like its own exodus out of Egypt. When the nurse puts all 5 lbs and 12 ounces of her in your arms and asks you what her name is, tell her Burning Bush.
10. When you fill out the birth certificate, under “second parent,” write N/A. Wait for the call from somewhere in the hospital to confirm her name.
Say yes, it’s Shirley Moxie Klein.
11. What you don’t say is this: Aunt Shirley was the administrator of a synagogue. You grew up thinking Shirley Temples were named after Aunt Shirley’s Temple. Shirley means “bright.” It’s not a Hebrew name, but it seems like every Jewish person you meet had a beloved Aunt Shirley.
The Webster definition of Moxie is “force of character, determination, or nerve.” It is also a malt flavored soda brewed since 1876.
SMK shares the initials with your slightly estranged father. That wasn’t by accident. He’s saving his engraved bar mitzvah cufflinks for her 13th birthday.
12. Remember that this was just the beginning of your journey through the desert of single motherhood. There will be miracles, there will be questions, and there definitely will be lice. There won’t be a lot of rest.
You will feel alone, at times, wandering and rootless as you try to construct a family by yourself. But if you keep your sense of humor, you will find joy in forging new traditions and pleasure in discarding the ones that don’t fit.
One day, tell your daughter the story of how you chose her name. It is now her story, too.