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As someone who was raised in a Jewish home, there was never any doubt in my mind that when the time came to name my children I would follow tradition and name my sons and/or daughters after beloved family members who had passed away. Unfortunately, quite a few close relatives had not lived long enough to share the joy of my children’s births and I had many options.
Before my daughter was born in 1981, my husband and I had to come up with possibilities for both genders. Back then, before science stepped in with today’s customary spoiler, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” was truly one of life’s biggest surprises that was announced with much fanfare.
So, we agreed on two sets of names - Jonathan William (after my father-in-law and my father) and Ellen Judith (after my mother and my father-in-law). Well, we got Ellen Judith, and gave her the Hebrew/Yiddish name Esther Yehudit.
Before my son was born in 1987, we had already been informed that he was, indeed, a he. No dramatic announcement to the family following his birth. But before he was born, I did play around with different name possibilities. We knew that he would be named William Steven, after his paternal grandfather and maternal aunt. But I had been shopping around for birth announcements and made several samples, each with a different fictional name, weight, etc. And I left one on a table in the family room.
When I went to the hospital to give birth, my mother-in-law stayed in my home to take care of my daughter. After she got the call from my husband at the hospital, she looked at the fake birth announcement and spread the word that Wilbur Sergio had entered the world. When guests arrived at my son’s brit milah (circumcision and naming ceremony), many were surprised that they were meeting William Steven, not Wilbur Sergio. We have always called him Will, and his Hebrew/Yiddish name is Zev (Velvel) Yisrael.
Skip ahead a bunch of years. I was watching a family reunion TV movie based on the 1970s hit, The Waltons. I loved that show. My favorite characters were the grandparents. As I sat glued to the TV, something suddenly hit me - my kids names were almost identical to Grandpa and Grandma Walton. Grandma was Esther, played by an Ellen (Corby). Grandpa was Zeb, played by a Will (Geer). In Hebrew, the letter for B and V is basically the same. I not only named my kids after their relatives, I named them after the Walton grandparents, too!
Author: Pearl Salkin