When I was pregnant with our third child, our second daughter, I made a mistake not uncommon to mothers who encourage free thinking in their children, free thinking in principle at least. I asked the kids what they’d like to name their sister.
At ages 8 and 5, they were short in stature, short in temper, but not short in creativity or determination.
“Chrysanthemum!” they both shouted.
I should have seen it coming. The title of Most Requested Book in our house that year belonged to Chrysanthemum, written by the immensely talented Kevin Henkes. In the story, the little mouse, Chrysanthemum loved her name. She loved it, that is, until she started school. Teased by the other children, the name she once thought was absolutely perfect, was now absolutely dreadful. Poor Chrysanthemum wilted. But with lots of hugs and kisses and Parcheesi (not to mention a sympathetic music teacher, Delphinium Twinkle), Chrysanthemum finally blooms.
Despite my insistence that Chrysanthemum (It scarcely fits on a name tag!) would not be gracing their sister’s birth certificate, my son and daughter patted my belly and whispered, “Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum.” They went at me tag-team style. “It’s absolutely perfect,” one would say. And then the other would finish the quote. “And precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome.”
In the final weeks of pregnancy, sensing my determination, they suggested a last minute alternate name, the equally unique moniker of Blossom Sprout. I’m embarrassed to say that my husband and I caved. Well, we compromised. The kids were so enamored with floral names, that when their sister was born, we agreed that she was as beautiful as a Rose. It was absolutely perfect. Just like our baby.
Five years later, we all stared at the computer in awe of the stunning baby girl whose picture graced the screen. Our new daughter. Their new sister.
Her name was Jin Qiu Ju. The paperwork said, “Jin is the name of all babies from our institution and means gold.” The name “Qiu,” it said, “is for Autumn, the season when she was found.” That was it. Nothing about Ju.
We called my brother-in-law, who happens to be fluent in Mandarin. He asked us to scan the name onto our computer and send it to him so he could check the character to be sure. We waited together for him to call us back.
The phone rang. “It’s a very popular name in China,” he said. “An auspicious character. It means Chrysanthemum.”
Tears came to my eyes. I announced it to the children, “Her name is Chrysanthemum!”
“Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum,” they all chanted.
They finally had their sister, Chrysanthemum. It was absolutely perfect.
Just like our baby.
And oh yes, we’ve found that she’s also precious and priceless and fascinating and winsome.