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On Becoming Eponymous

by Julia Sneden

    I still cant believe it. They named her Julia. Its a name with an honorable, 200-year history in my family, but Im nonetheless astounded to have a child named after me.
      I was named for my Great Aunt Julia, my grandfathers only sister, a person my mother admired even though she didnt particularly care for the name itself. She solved that by calling me Judy. I suppose Judy fit me for the woefully brief period when I was small and dimpled and adorable.
      Come to think of it, the female names from my mothers family were preferable to those in my fathers. By rights, I should have been Harriet or Prudence, there having been one of each in alternate generations for too far back to count. Harriets named their daughters Prudence, and Prudences named their daughters Harriet, until the Prudence who was my great-great grandmother asserted her independence and named her daughter Carra. Carra, however, started the whole mess over again by naming her daughter Prudence. That was my grandmother, Prudence Brown. She produced a son, my father, but no daughters. As the next female child after that generational skip, I think I was lucky to escape being named Prudence Harriet or Harriet Prudence. No wonder I learned to count my blessings and live with Julia. 
      By high school, I had dropped the Judy as too cute, and opted for Julie, which I considered a bit more dignified than Judy, but not as formidable as Julia.
      I finally came to terms with being Julia in my mid-30s, when I started feeling like a grownup. Ive actually become rather fond of my name.
      However, when my daughter-in-law announced that if their expected child were female, theyd name her Julia, I was caught completely unprepared. I think I stammered an ungracious uhare you sure you want to do that to her? Even worse, I may have followed that with: Oh, you dont have to do that! Whatever I said, Im sure it was the wrong thing, because of course I should have said something conveying gratitude and love and the fact that I was thrilled and honored. Alas, I am almost never eloquent on short notice.
      Julias mother really likes the name. I hope that will make a difference, so that Julia wont grow up as conflicted about it as I was. Her wise parents arent giving her an artificial, substitute name (but she does have a nickname: they sometimes refer to her as The Jooge). I must say, I think Julia suits her better than it did me. At 22 months, shes a powerful personality. I am delighted to share my name with her.
      But being eponymous does feel strange. When I visit my sons house, and someone calls: Julia!  I tend to respond before I realize theyre speaking to the baby (this in a house where I am called Mom or Grandma; sometimes I am a slow learner).
      I really like my eponymity. That word isn't in my dictionary, but I'm going to back-form it: after all, anonymous/anonymity, why not eponymous/eponymity?  It affirms in me things that I didnt know needed affirming.
      I just hope I can live up to her.

 

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