The name came to us in July, when I was just rounding the bend into second trimester, and it was truthfully one of the very first—and very few—names that we considered at the time. Too early to know if our baby was a boy or a girl, but I’d had girls names picked out since 2002 and Steve was willing to wrestle me for ‘Molly’ over them, so we’d cross that bridge if we came to it.
Boy names are hard: in our experience, you can either go totally traditional (Matthew, Michael, Paul) or ethnic (Patrick, Kieran, Declan) or trendy (Jayden, Finley, Wes), but for boys, there’s very little wiggle room in between before you start picturing a meekish child in oversized horn-rimmed glasses or a biker dude with a purple mohawk and tattoos in all places visible and not. Both times so far, we’ve gone with our Irish ethnicity. We’ve been quite pleased.
We did start with variations of the name. Quintans was the last name of a student I was tutoring at the time, an oversized baby-doll-faced but sure-to-bring-the-pain football lineman named Nick. Something about the ‘kw’ sound at the beginning appealed to me. We’d be moving forward in the alphabet, from /a/ to /d/ to /k/, which perhaps soothed my proclivity toward order. So though I knew it was early, I brought up the subject of baby names with Steve, shortly after we’d announced to family and friends that we were even expecting, and told him I actually had a name in mind. So did he, he said. Interesting. So on the count of three (for some reason we felt like making this a competition), we both said our would-be child’s name as it had barely emerged in our minds: Quentin from Steve. Quinn from me. Maybe with one ‘n.’
You know when you have those ‘Aha’ moments in life. Everything stops for just a second; sound is in a vacuum, and your mind races to embrace the moment and try to download it on the express highway of nerves and axons into the long-term storage boxes of our brains. This was one of those moments, fleeting as it was, and after a five-minute chat about how we could morph the two names into one, just so it could be a name from both of us, I realized how in love with Steve's idea I was, and Quentin was born in our hearts.
We casually mentioned the name to good friends during the rest of the summer, usually stringing it along with a number of other names that were nice but not quite as ‘it’ as Quentin, just to get some feedback. All was positive. Not that it mattered, but it was nice to hear approval and accordance from our closest groupies, some of whom our children called “aunt” and “uncle.” And, of course, the list of rehearsed girls names was reported duly, but in my mind, the baby had already become ‘he.’ Let’s face it: we do boys. That’s how we roll.
I won’t go into detail here about what changed and what didn’t regarding the anticipation of the arrival of our newest little peanut when Aidan died. We hadn’t told Aidan the name we were considering, because we were three weeks shy of the confirmation ultrasound, and that’s one of my biggest regrets to this day. I would have liked to have heard him say the name. When Devin says it, in his crackly, gruff little deep Brooklyn Rabbi voice, it melts my heart. Though I can imagine how Quentin would have sounded coming from Aidan’s lips, I would have recorded the softness in his voice, the tender smile on his face, that would have accompanied the pronunciation of the name, whether he actually liked the name or not. Aidan was like that; if you were excited about something, and he wasn’t, he’d be happy for you, because he loved seeing you happy.
But weeks After, and in those that followed the ultrasound appointment confirming the presence of a little extra package between the baby’s legs, Steve and I started to have doubts. In actuality, what was physiologically happening was that our executive functioning and decision-making skills were wrecked; extreme lack of sleep, deep and prolonged mourning, and expending the brightest kilowatts of our energy on the “what the hell happened?” investigation led us to a resource we swore we’d never consult, because really, is this how people name their children: a baby name book, buried under the plethora of parenting magazines in my obstetrician’s office.
This particular reference guide was broken into chapters of names grouped by ethnicity. We scanned the British and American names without much interest after we’d been let down by the contorted spellings of the few Irish and Gaelic names that have yet to be taken by either of our families. Devin is actually a recycled name in my family, same spelling, a male first cousin of mine, four years my senior, whom I adore. In our suburban Philadelphia area, we’ve learned over the last five years, Devon is wildly popular instead, perhaps named for the Main Line town nearby, and is given to girls. We have one on our street. And our Aidan, born during the height of hysteria for the TV show Sex and the City (which I hadn’t yet watched at the time we’d chosen his name, I swear—but was giddy when I later found out which actor I was being teased about), was one of three Aidans born in the same hospital on the same day. For those of you who aren’t Carrie Bradshaw groupies, the SATC character Aidan is played by actor John Corbett, who I’ve secretly had a major crush on since his Northern Exposure days as DJ Chris Stevens, the philosophical ex-felon known for his intellectual commentating and laid-back personality. Yummy since the early 90’s. Mmmm.
Our family is replete with Kevins, Brendans, Colins, Connors, Michaels, Liams, and Owens. We have Patricks, for sure, but even the lesser-known Irish male names like Conchur, Liadan, Grania, and Killian build the tiers of our family address database. While we’ve gotten away with having the only Aidan on either side, so far, we’re pretty sure it won’t be that way forever. Especially now. In the weeks before Steve’s sister was due to have her second child, they asked us, if it's a boy, if the middle name could be Aidan. First name Kevin. Brother to Patrick. Of course.
So after our breeze through Tally-Ho and Fish-n-Chips, and who can forget the Urban American chapter with unmistakably applicable names for future NFL and NBA greats, Steve’s thumb hit the Portuguese pages. There were only three of them, with both boy and girl names. Interesting. As often as people mistakenly think of Silva as a Spanish or Latino name, and as they are seldom corrected, in actuality, Silva is to Portuguese names what Smith is to American. Steve’s branch of the tree stems from the Madeira Islands off the coast before they settled in Somerville, Massachusetts, back in the day. There’s a mouth-watering scandalous story about Steve’s great-great-grandfather, Ireland’s own Owen Kelly, naming his daughter Jane, after his British mistress. Our family loves to laugh about this tale over wine and canned beer during the holidays, but other than that, the Albert John (and Marion) Silva family that made it from Somerville, Massachusetts down to Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, has pretty much dispersed throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. Some keep in touch, and like most Americanized families, some don’t.
And there, among the Portuguese nomenclature, rank with Isabellas and Albertos and the other beautiful names with soft cadences that roll off the tongue, was our little one. Quentin. Well, Quintin, actually, because the letter e isn’t a popular one in this Latin-based romance language. But it was written as one of the variations. What drew us to declare that our child would be named this name with absolute certainty, however, was the description of its meaning. Quinto, in Portuguese, means “fifth.” And as it turns out, it dawned on us slowly in that moment, because of course our PTSD brains could hardly do simple mathematics, this little guy would be not only the fifth member of our family (Steve, me, Aidan, Devin, Quentin), but also the fifth grandchild on both sides. Of course, we’re counting Liam, my brother’s child who was born prematurely on April 16th, 2009, and lived for 15 minutes while his parents held him and talked to him and cried when he wrapped his finger around my brother’s. And without question, we’re counting Aidan. Quentin, we decided for once and for all at that moment then and there, would be the perfect tribute to those that live and those who have passed in our family, a name that marks the place of the brother and cousin who we were blessed to have with us, if only for a short time. Aha. Quentin. There you are. Of course.
So, from a moment of gamble in April, where we took stock of our lives and declared them full, but it would be nice if… to a child whose name and presence will forever help our hearts heal, we wait, for five more days, for him to arrive. Quentin.
I’m scheduled for a C-section this Friday morning, February 4th, on the five-month anniversary of Aidan's passing. We’re eager for you all to meet Aidan and Devin’s little brother. Thank you for your positive thoughts and well-wishes.