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“What’s that sound?” Ernie bolted up in bed and fumbled for the alarm clock.
“What time is it?” I mumbled, trying to figure out where I was. I was pretty sure I wasn’t home. Maybe in a hotel room?
Oh no, could it be a tornado warning? Somewhere, against windows or maybe the roof, I could hear rain falling in torrents.
“The phone,” Ernie said, and then he was out of bed searching for his new iPhone that makes an ever-so-clever bouncing noise instead of ringing.
I sat straight up in bed, wide-awake now. Over a lifetime, I’ve learned that calls that come in way past midnight should be taken seriously. Sometimes, they’re pranks, but in my crowd they’re never, ever chatty little ring-ups inviting me to lunch.
This was no hotel room, I realized. I was in Indianapolis in a bed borrowed from my oldest grandson, Jared, where I’d been sleeping for the past month. His mother, our daughter Becky, had undergone major surgery four weeks earlier, and I’d been cast in the role of Alice in their production of “The Brady Bunch.”
Now our oldest daughter, Shan, was calling from a Kentucky hospital. She’d gone into labor more than two weeks early, and no, she was pretty sure this was not a false alarm.
Shan and her husband John are not exactly Abraham and Sarah, but they were well into their 30s when they married. When several years passed with no announcement, Ernie and I assumed that only two of our three daughters would be adding grandchildren to the family tree chart.
But oh the happiness that flooded our hearts when Shan told us last July that she was pregnant. We understood how much she has always hoped to have a child.
The pregnancy proceeded without any problems. In fact, Shan, an attorney, was still working every day. And so, though it sounds silly to admit, we were taken off guard when the baby decided to enter the world a few weeks early. We think now that she didn’t want to miss March Madness. She descends from a long line of UK basketball fanatics – her mother among them – and she thoroughly enjoyed rooting the Wildcats to the NCAA Final Four during her first few weeks of life.
“We’ve got to leave for Lexington right now,” one, then both of us said. And so we did that. We jumped out of bed, brushed our teeth and dressed, gathered a month’s worth of possessions scattered around the house, woke up Becky and Tim to say good-bye, and headed south on I-65 in just about the slickest, blackest night I’ve ever seen.
I prayed at every mile marker. I prayed that the baby would be all right. I prayed that Shan would be okay. I prayed that Ernie wouldn’t doze and skid off the highway. And though I felt a little sheepish, I prayed that we would make it to Lexington before the baby was born.
As it turned out, we arrived long before she did because more drama lay ahead. Despite her mellow attitude the previous eight-plus months, she got cantankerous at the end. After nine hours of labor, somebody finally realized she was trying to come into the world upside down. I could rant here about the mysteries of modern medicine – I mean don’t they have ways to know this stuff nowadays – but all’s well that ends well. Shan had an emergency C-section and both mother and baby are doing fine at the one month mark.
I’ve saved one of the sweetest parts of this story — at least to me — until the end. They gave her a used name! Georgia Jane is named for both her grandmothers, and we are honored and humbled to pass on our second-hand names to a little girl who may carry them into the 22nd Century.
Now there are those who think a girl will never get elected to the Homecoming Court if she doesn’t have a trendy, up-to-date name. Others think a child cannot find her own way in the world unless she has a name invented for her, that no one else who has ever lived has owned. But I think a used name can anchor you if you’ll listen to it, and help you feel a little less alone in this world.
I know something about sharing a name with older relatives. In my family there’s a Georgia under every other rock, and I admit that it gets confusing. And when she’s about 15, I could tell her, a name like Georgia Jane will feel hopelessly old-fashioned, and she may consider changing it to Peppi with an i.
I hope she doesn’t. I would remind her then that her DNA recipe has a smidge of all of us who have preceded her, and if she will select the best we have to offer — and pass over our weaknesses — she will have a delicious life.
On behalf of the Georgia’s, I’d tell her about the three — or was it four? — generations of my Grandmother Hostetter-Hudson’s family who got this Georgia thing rolling. I’d urge her to reach for their charm and graciousness and their legendary culinary talents.
Look to my Aunt Georgia Green for godliness and longevity. And on the Stamper side, I’d remind her of her g-g — Aunt Georgia Belle Stamper Giles. Pick up on her passion for education, and grab on to her world-class sense of humor and her indomitable spirit.
From my grandfather George Hudson — not exactly a Georgia but close enough — take his good head for business, his kindness to all, and his devotion to family.
I’d ask, too, for a heart as wise as your Aunt Georgia Ann’s, your mother’s sister, and her determination to do her best at everything she attempts.
As for myself, what Grandmother Georgia has to give you is love. Loving and being loved, I’ve learned, is all that matters in this world whatever your name may be.