The idea is that our children only know us “Mom,” “Mommy,” or “Mama” but don’t know who we were before we had that name. Each week, Carla will provide a prompt which will result in a collection of stories from me to my children, giving them a glimpse into me, before I was their Mom.
Our first prompt: How did you get your name? Did you always love it? Have you ever wanted to change it?
I don’t think my parents had a reason for naming me Leah, except that they liked it and the second runner up, Jennifer, had just been used by my Mom’s friend. My middle name is Jane, after my mother, which is special to me now, though I’m not sure I appreciated that when I was younger.
Growing up I looked my name up in a baby name book for it’s meaning: the weary one. Seriously?! For someone who loves the meaning behind things, this was a bummer, and anyone who knows me will confirm that I tend to have a lot of energy. A-Lot-Of-Energy! (Over years of my overachieving ways, though, I have over-committed myself at times and have felt weary.)
I’m not sure I prefer the more modern meaning: delicate. I’m pretty bold, self confident and consider myself a strong, passionate woman. However, when I really consider the meaning, I think my heart is empathetic, open and honest, and so it can feel sensitive and fragile. I hate feeling misunderstood – I’d never make it in politics!
As a kid, I was the only Leah. There was another girl about six years younger than me, who spelled her name Lea, but until college, she was the only other person I’d ever met who had my name.
Generally, I liked being individual and having an uncommon name, but I craved something personalized. Other girls had signs on their bedroom doors announcing “Carrie’s Room” or had stickers, hair clips or jewelry labeled with their names. Nothing ever had Leah on it. Nothing.
In fifth grade, I decided I liked the Italian spelling, Lia, better. I reasoned that we had Italian heritage so it made more sense than the Hebrew spelling from the Old Testament. Without warning or explanation, I began to write “Lia” on my school papers. After only a week of being Lia, I was looking for an empty box in my Mom’s gift wrap closet. I opened a small white box and found a necklace with “Leah” dangling from the chain. I replaced the lid and started writing “Leah” on my school work again, excited that I would finally have something with my name on it! I only told my Mom about that discovery many years later.
As a young adult, I worked in PR and special events at a major New York City retailer. We had a woman personalizing furniture, she was beautifully painting “Leah” on a stool when I walked by, I stopped short and marveled. The artist commented, “I like to use the more popular names,” and it startled me to realize my name had become more common.
Perhaps the name is given a little more often now, but I am still the only Leah in my life circles. After being the only Leah for so many years, I always spin around to respond anytime I hear a Mom call out “Leah!”