Friday, May 20, 2011


One of the best parts of adding to the family is coming up with names for the new members. When I was a little girl I chose elaborate names for my dolls (e.g., Christiana), my 3/4 size violin (Octavia) and the many bonnet- and hoop-skirt-wearing spunky and resourceful girls whose stories I was forever scribbling down. I once named a cat Elsinore (yes, after Hamlet's castle) and another Mirabai. But my pet names have become much tamer in recent years, tending toward things like Lily and Chuck. And our last pet acquisition was named by Max, who deemed our tiny puppy Maddy as she dozed on his lap in the car on the way home to our house from her rescue home. 

So the prospect of five additions to our family posed a delightful challenge: what to call our new chicks? I had a few ideas on the subject, but it seemed like the kind of question tailor-made for a Facebook post. And boy, was it! The post ended up with a record (for me, at least) of 45 comments and gave me some of the heartiest belly-laughs I've had in ages, confirming my hunch that the whole chicken adventure was going to be good for my spirits. No post in which I intend to announce the names we've chosen would be complete without a retelling of some of the most entertaining entries in the great Facebook chicken-naming extravaganza. 

The festivities kicked off slowly with a couple of alphabet-themed entries from my friend Gaylon. The best of these (in my opinion) was his first: Abigail, Beatrice, Cordelia, Delilah, and Edwina.  Lovely names, all of them, and not a hen in the world would be ashamed to strut around with one of them. Next Sylvia chimed in with the rather predictable, although cute, Henrietta. Don't worry--she was just getting warmed up. Her later offering--Loretta, Tammy, Dolly, Reba and Shania--was brilliant and a crowd favorite. There was a grape varietal entry (Gaylon again, wonder what he was up to between posts...) and several that tried to be predictive of the hens' ultimate fate. The best of these (sorry Nathan and Richard) came from Jonathan, who proposed that we should name them "something appropriate, that will guide them in the afterlife" before offering Cacciatore, Parmigiana, a la King, 'n' dumplin's and Teriyaki. Sylvia's wasn't the only musical suggestion. Gaylon tapped an operatic vein with two slates. A Franco-Italian: Carmen, Tosca, Aida, Ophelia, and Lucia. And a Wagnerian: Sieglinde, Brunnhilde, Isolde, Elsa, and Ortrud. Mark preferred pop singers, with two inspired five-somes: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael (never mind the gender issues, right?); and Ginger, Baby, Posh, Sporty and Scary. I very nearly went for that last one just because it made me laugh so hard. 

So with this embarrassment of riches, what did we choose? Well, first of all, I knew I could not name them until they were actually here. I had to meet them, get a sense of their personalities, see what fit. I needed a visual and an auditory impression. And when these girls arrived it was clear to me that they were just not singers of any stripe, pop, country or Wagnerian. Which was sad because I really loved both the ladies of country music and the Spice Girls ideas. 

And as entertaining as the rest were, I kept coming back to an idea I had of giving these hens the given names of my departed fore-grandmothers, some of whom I know for a fact kept hens of their own. Although the names themselves are perhaps not the most euphonous, they are old-fashioned, solid names. They call up for me the images of those women who went before me and who with their labor made it possible for me to be here now, enjoying a life that has had space enough to allow me to enjoy not one but two satisfying professional careers, a rich family life and, coming full circle, a coop full of laying hens. And they fit my birds, whose personalities are already very much in evidence, just fine. 

So meet Sadie, for Sadie Coppock Flory, my paternal great-grandmother and mother of my still-wonderful 90-year-old grandmother who enriches my life constantly; 

Gertie, for Gertrude Keller Koogler, my tough-as-nails Pennsylvania Dutch maternal great-grandmother;


and Millie, for Mildred Mae Koogler Storck Rasper my complicated, fragile and modern maternal grandmother (and Gertie's daughter).

For Hank's side of the family, there is Hattie, for Hattie Shwarz, Hank's maternal great-grandmother who ran a hardware store together with her husband in Napa, our legacy of which is some stunning crockery custom made in Limoges for Shwarz Hardware. 
Hattie (who is a very beautiful girl but this is not the most flattering picture of her)
And finally, departing from the theme but calling on a bit of history from our immediate family and one of 3-year-old Max's favorite videos (and, okay, one of Hank's and mine, too), one of our chicks is called Rosie.
My fervent hope for our Rosie is that she becomes as plump and lives as charmed a life as her namesake:

 Next post: assembling the coop (which arrived in panels this week!).

1 comment:

  1. Glad you enjoyed the speculation! The names you chose are perfect.