Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's In A Name?

I wrote this letter to my grandparents for their Christmas gift this year. They already knew the baby's name but I wanted to give them the story behind it. I know they've shared it with their guests and visitors so they won't mind my sharing it with my blog guests and visitors. This is the story of my son's name. 

Grammy and PapPap,

When Curtis and I began talking about names for children, which was long before this one was conceived, we knew we wanted to use the name Dayton somewhere. Overtime we decided it would be our first son’s first name, should we have a boy.

According to the internet Dayton means ‘sunny town’. This makes sense in light of the research Mom has done on our English roots. Deighton was a place in Yorkshire. We were De Deightons (of Dayton) for generations. Then, just Deighton, and upon coming to America we simplified the spelling to Dayton. But while we were Deightons we were Knights Templar, Keepers of the Great Seal of England, Lord Mayors of York, Sherriffs of Nottingham (but not bad guys, I checked), among other things. The Deightons may not have been important enough to make the history books, even in footnotes, but we have an interesting and prestigious past. It’s the stuff stories and legends are made of, and the kind of things little boys have pretended to be for centuries. I intend to raise my little boy reading him stories of knights, Robin Hood, and kings, weaving in our own family history. I imagine he will be proud of where we came from, and proud of his name. It’s a strong, noble name.

But I will also tell him about what the name Dayton means to me. It’s much more than a sunny town or a noble past. It’s generosity, gentleness, grace, and gratitude—the things I learned from my Grammy. I aspire to be like you someday when I’m a grown up. Sweet and tenderhearted and very giving. Giving of your time, your compassion, your talents. The world is becoming more and more selfish and there are fewer people like you. But it’s people like you, a ray of sunshine, that make the greatest difference. I want my son to be these things, to be a ray of sunshine. I guess the meaning ‘sunny town’ does fit after all. If we’re all supposed to be a city on a hill where people can see the light of Jesus, then we need to be sunny towns.

My son’s middle name is for his father, Curtis. And the funny thing about Curtis is that when I prayed for a husband I asked for a man just like my PapPap because he was the best man I’ve ever known. A man who would be hard-working, a man devoted to his family, a man who is generous and thoughtful. God took me quite seriously and delivered me a young man very much like my grandfather—down to his driving Fords, voting Republican, and having a unique sense of humor.

Our son will have a second middle name. Some people will think that’s silly, to give a boy two middle names. And some will think it’s weird when they find out that it’s Milford. But I like it. It’s my PapPap’s name. It only seemed right to include you in my son’s name. His name is about legacies and who I want him to grow up to be like. If my son grows up and reminds me at all of you, I will consider myself a success as a parent.

Dayton Curtis Milford Berry is a mouthful, I admit. But it’s really a reminder to my boy of who he is and where he came from. He may be a descendant of people who served and knew English kings, but he is also a descendent of people who served and knew the King of Kings. Ultimately, it’s the example of Christian faith that has inspired me so much throughout the years. It’s the same faith that I aspire to have and that I want to raise my son to have.

I will tell my son about both of you and the fun things we did together. I imagine that in his world the Deightons of old and the Buterbaughs of not so long ago will mold together. Children have a way of blurring the lines that way. But that’s okay. I don’t see many differences between Sherwood Forest and your backyard, between royal feasts and Jean-o’s Pizza. For my son, it’s all part of the same story of where he came from.

May will be here before we know it and so will Dayton. I’m so anxious to meet him and find out who this little person is that God is knitting inside of me. I wonder if he will look like me or like Curtis, and if we’ll be able to pick out little pieces of each of you. There are times when I think Marissa Jane looks just like one of you, and I hope that’s the case with Dayton¸too. I’m excited to bring him to visit Bald Eagle and for you to be able to hold him. I want to take pictures so I can show him as he gets older who we named him after and tell him about how much you loved him.

I’m so grateful that you’re my grandparents. Most people I know don’t have grandparents like mine. Their grandparents are nice people, but they’re just not like the two of you. I’m honored to be able to have a son to name for two of the people that I love most and have loved me the most. Yes, his name is undoubtedly a legacy of love.

PS for my readers...I feel the need to assure everyone that the use of the name 'Milford' will be very limited. I figure one way kids know just how much trouble they're in is based on how much of their name their mother uses. My degrees of trouble will be...Dayton!...Dayton Curtis!...Dayton Curtis Berry!....Dayton Curtis Milford Berry!! But other than the birth certificate and certain other legal documents, the name won't be used much, unless he chooses it for himself when he's older. But it is my gift to him, his whole name. 

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