Top 5 Projected Baby Names of April 22nd, 2019
Compiled by Alexandria Willis Feitz, childbearer
Origin: A small somewhat ghetto area in downtown Birmingham, 2005
What it means:
Ensley, Alabama, is a small area nestled inside of the humid and racially divided Greater Birmingham area. A fatherless, impoverished community that I joined at eleven years old that would change my life completely. I left Ensley years later with a wardrobe of clothing stained from dark women’s makeup on the shoulders of all my shirts, mascara and deep blush from hugs and tears. These women, whose hospital rooms I was well acquainted with, who accidently taught me what abuse looks like on a brave face and bruises look like on dark skin, who said “amen”more often than anything else, and who introduced you to a different sweet Jesus than I had ever known before, would also show me the beauty, complexity, and purity of womanhood.
As I stood at Valerie Orr’s “homecoming service,” her ivory casket open showing her lovely face, and I clapped and danced and cried and said amen in the pew of the chapel, I felt in my young heart a desire for my daughters, should they ever exist, to be beautiful like her. When I spent time in the hospital with Valerie before her death, I saw how life-threatening diabetes really was in this community and hearing her birth year I was shocked by how very young a great grandmother can be. As I looked at Valerie without her wig and in a hospital gown, I would begin to have a vision for beauty.
And then there was Sister Sanders. When I, at eleven years old, arrived in Ensley, I would hear Sister Sanders as I pushed open the doors of the local church. Maybe singing with her deep tenor voice while playing the organ with all the stops, maybe telling the kids to be respectful as they ran through the hallway without shoes, maybe with her arm around another sister while speaking words of comfort. Most often I would hear her in the kitchen handing out food and telling people to “wash your dang hands, for Pete’s sake.”And as I sat next to her on the bench in front of an organ singing hymns as she played, I would begin to have a vision for what strength looked like.
Ruby Davis talks like a song. Her voice is smooth like banana pudding and warm like mac and cheese. I would immediately identify her as a mother, to many and to all. She would lead children with her, and as I was still a child at eleven years old, I would follow her wherever she led. I ran into her years later and she would remind me she still prayed for me. At my wedding she would kiss me and again leave deep, lovely shades of make up on my white dress and cheek. And through the years I would begin to have a vision for what faith looks like in a woman.
If on April 22ndI were to have a daughter, I would want her to be beautiful, strong, and faithful. I put at the top of my list of names, Ensley Grace. Ensley for the women I knew there and Grace for what they taught me.
2. Luciano Alexander
Origin: Genoa, Italy 1922
Born in 1922, the original Luciano Alessandro would be in just the right place to see my grandfather’s plane fall from the sky in Nazi-occupied, northern Italy. He watched the American plane fall, close enough to see my grandfather’s form bail out of the plane and release his parachute. He spoke enough English to convince my grandfather to come with him, and for the next several months, Grandpa Willis would sit around fires in the evening listening to Luciano’s guitar and his soon to be missed voice while hiking miles across Italy during the days. Luciano would introduce my grandfather to his friends, other resistance fighters, and together they would save his life, hide him in their barns, and lead him to American forces.
Around the same time Valerie Orr passed away, I would be standing in the hallway of my grandmother’s home, looking up, neck craned to see a tiny picture of an Italian man in the corner of a collage of pictures and medals attributed to my grandpa’s sacrifices during the war. My father would explain this picture to me, telling me that we never learned how Luciano died, but he never returned home after helping my grandfather. My heart would begin to burn in a new way.
Years later in 2016, while searching for his name, I would see “Luciano Alessandro” on the death records of a concentration camp in Melk, Austria. And again, my heart burned. In 2018 I found a letter in an old trunk from Luciano’s father to my grandfather. Although hard to read, the tear stained letter with its sloping cursive is seared in my memory. His father wrote of his “dear boy”and of his “everlasting sorrow”,knowing Luciano would never come home.
Soon after reading the letter I found out that I was pregnant, and as I lay in bed one night, thinking of my hopes and dreams for my child, I would think of Luciano’s father, his everlasting sorrow. I thought of what his dreams for his son were and how he unwillingly gave those up for my own dreams. I curled my body around my stomach and thought of my own existence, the existence of my child, and the existence of my grandfather, Curtis Willis, who would never have made it home from war without Luciano Alessandro. My heart burned with the reality of a legacy and the gift of life.
Luciano Alessandro Righi; I had to help that name live on. Since he could not have posterity, it would be through mine that it lived.
3. Stephanie Jo
Origin: Grantsville and Cedar City, UT
As a pregnant woman, I dwell a lot on how much of a sacrifice it is to create a human life. Yes, I am a martyr. It is exhausting and sometimes depressing, something that you should never say about baby creating. Yet, it’s the reality. For the first 18 weeks, I would experience overwhelming nausea forcing me to rely on heavy, mind numbing medications to try to stay hydrated enough to prevent more contractions. Now, still pregnant as I compile this list, I mostly survive on imaginings of no longer being pregnant. My thoughts turn often to the sacrifice a mother makes for her child even before birth. It doesn’t take long for my thoughts to move from there to my own mother’s sacrifices.
In 1995 both Stephanie Willis and Joey Feitz experienced all the glamor of pregnancy before giving birth to myself and Taylor, who I would later meet, marry, and with him compile a list of baby names meant for the April of 2019. It should come as no surprise that, though noble, the pregnancy portion of their contribution to their children’s lives wouldn’t be the greatest sacrifice they would make.
Stephanie would raise me, an emotional and sensitive child, through every traumatic discovery of suffering I would experience as I came of age. In Ensley I witnessed suffering and death, the hard kind that never sits easily. My dearest friend, Kat, was found in her bathtub, overdosed on pills. Brother Rice was only in his thirties when diabetes took his life, and right before he died, he promised me he would be there next week to teach me more Bible songs. And Willie, who I only met a few times, he was shot in a drive-by shooting. And I watched his grandmother fall to carpet as she tried to tell my father what happened to her dear grandson. And my mother, Stephanie, she would sit with me in my closet when my room was too big and overwhelming to process tragedy in.
When I returned home after 18 months of serving a mission, I was in quite an unrecognizable state. I had come home in pieces from my time away, and she immediately recognized the need to help me into counseling where she would drive hours to find someone who was qualified to help. She would sit on my bed during panic attacks and rub my feet, helping to calm me.
As I grew older, I would begin to see that my mother always suffered with me. She was never a bystander to my anguish, my anxiety, my bullying, my painful transition to womanhood. She suffered with, sometimes more, than me.
Joey is my husband Taylor’s beautiful mother. She seemed a bit abrasive at first to me, but as I came to know her son, I came to adore her. I have known her a few years now, and I still feel every muscle in my body tense up when she walks into a room with me, and says “I’m sorry, but I just need to say something.” Joey is bold and honest, and it is a gift to never wonder what she is thinking.
Whenever I am with both my husband and Joey, I bring a book to distract myself as they gravitate to the piano room. I hear them in the background, coaching each other on technique and texture. Their words crunch against the melodies they spend hours perfecting. My husband’s voice gets excited while Joey becomes more and more analytical. They play for hours at a time while I finish chapter after chapter, book after book.
I can’t resent Joey for stealing my husband for hours to lose herself in a world of music I don’t understand. This world of music and harmony is what she gave up for the uncomfortable dissonance of harsh years as a single mother. Giving up her art to raise four children, losing sleep for a business degree and working full time – I can’t resent her for that. I sometimes stop them, but I don’t resent them.
I hope that if this baby I carry is a daughter, she will be the kind of mother that Stephanie and Joey are. That she will find a way to weave art and healing into her interactions every day, though the days are sometimes ugly. Motherhood, for these two women, encompasses all the good that the world needs.
Origin: To Kill a Mockingbird, Monroeville, Alabama, 1936
The story of Atticus Finch would be deeply impactful for you. But it really doesn’t matter why you love this name, because when you told your mom it was your top pick for a boy she would tell you she would refuse to call your son by that name, because it is way too close to “a-lil-cuss.”
Your mother-in-law would say, “Oh.”A high pitched “oh.”And when you asked if she hated it she would say “there are things a mother-in-law can’t say to her daughter-in-law, but it isn’t my favorite.”So, in the end it doesn’t matter, because your moms hate the name.
Origin: Most relevantly my Dad
Willis is my maiden name. Technically, I never legally changed my name after marrying my darling husband. I changed it socially, but “Willis” still sits on my driver’s license and passport. And when my husband and I run marathons together, we pick up our packets on different ends of the tables alphabetized by last name. I love my husband, and all that being one with him implies, all that sharing a name with him implies. I have so much pride in the name “Willis”, however, that I haven’t brought myself to change it yet.
My dad’s name is Bryce Willis, and he is every one of his children’s heroes. That is why the name “Bryce” has already been used by older siblings when naming their own children. A family can only have so many adorable “Bryce’s” running around before it gets ridiculous, so “Bryce” isn’t on the table.
The kitchen table of my childhood home could tell so many stories, and often just looking at the table was enough to explain the entire political climate of the Willis home. Was it cluttered with homework? Did it have piles of groceries meant to feed our army of a family? Were there unfolded stacks of clean laundry along the back? Each state with its own implications spoke volumes.
But the table with a nice cloth, my mom’s beautiful red Spode plates, the nice silverware, and a meal painstakingly made to perfection by my mother on it, was something different. Most noteworthy was the lack of an obvious occasion. Something was happening. One time, I came home to an above described kitchen table and was told by my parents that my sweet cousin had passed away. Other times it would mean job changes or other nervous topics.
At twenty-years-old, I sat at one such table. My older siblings and I joked around the meal, all sensing the table was about to tell us something. Eventually, it was spoken in the way my father always seemed to share such news.
“I did actually have something I wanted to talk to you all about. I wanted to talk about how trials can bring us closer to God and each other.” He paused, as he is wont to do. “I have Parkinson’s disease.” He then filled the conversation with positive statements like how he could help with research by doing tests and studies, and how he loved God and found purpose in trials. In the years since I have seen my father suffer in the way he promised he would, with purpose and with positivity.
I don’t know what the child within me knows of mortality and suffering as of yet, where this child’s soul resides, or if this baby is aware of its budding life and consciousness. But one day mortality, suffering, pain, and trial will inevitably enter the life of my child. In each of these unavoidable experiences, I hope my child suffers nobly the way my father does, and that they face mortality fearlessly. I want my child to be a Willis.