The Water Whispered Her Name
I was getting close to seven months pregnant and Chad and I still hadn’t decided on names. We had pored over the baby name book numerous times, but nothing had really grabbed us. The names we did like had been shot down by others. “Bethany” was the name of a problem student my mom had as a teacher, so that was out. I had always liked “Jason,” but that was also the name of the guy I dated before Chad. Also out. Because we had chosen to not know the baby’s gender before the birth, we had two names to pick out. And the weeks kept going by.
Then there’s the story I don’t tell people. It’s one of those stories a mother treasures in her heart, but seems too precious to speak aloud.
Then one day at work, I saw a woman I knew in the hall. A woman named Julia.
“Hi, Julia,” I said as I passed her.
She returned my greeting and kept going. Then it hit me. Julia! What a beautiful name!
The truth is that years before she was born, her father and I hiked into the Alaskan wilderness and set up camp near a stream that fed into a swift, salmon-filled river. At that point in their journey, the salmon are still; suspended in the blue mass of the frigid river. He stood among them and fly-fished, zipping his line across the water’s surface.
I checked the baby name book that night to make sure it didn’t mean anything odd, like “Delaney” meaning “from the alder grove.” Or sad, the way “Dolores” means “sorrows.” Or funny, the way “Oliver” means “elf army.”
Much to my delight, the name Julia has a lovely meaning. “Youthful.” I had been raised to cherish youthfulness. Not in outward appearances, but from the heart.
“You’re only as old as you act,” my grandmother used to tell me.
My grandmother, who, widowed at the age of 80, moved into a retirement center and began socializing, dating and having the time of her life. Not that she didn’t have a wonderful life with my grandfather. She was just having fun with the time she had left. My grandmother was 88 when she died, but she was really only about 16. I loved her youthful spirit and hoped to pass it on to my own children. Julia was not only a beautiful name, but it had a meaning that was close to my heart. That was important to me.
I stood on a wooden bridge over the narrow stream. The stream was glacier run-off; pristine water so cold it shocked when you touched it. Underneath my hiking boots, the wooden bridge hummed as the water rushed and bubbled in its hurry to join the river.
Now I just had to get it past Chad. I had been a fan of Julia Roberts, the actress, for several years. After I convinced him that I was not trying to name our baby after a celebrity, he agreed that I had found the perfect girl name.
And it’s still perfect for her. I can’t imagine having named her anything else. I’ve always been glad I passed the other Julia in the hall that day.
Years later, I first held her in my arms. So new, but her name already ages old to me, like it was always planned to be hers. My mind traveled back to that day on the river. Standing over the rumbling current, did I not hear the sound that stands so clearly now in my memory? Amid the creek’s splashes and ripples, God spoke through his creation. I heard the water whisper her name.