We considered naming him Eli. I liked how the name looked when I wrote it down; and I remembered (fondly) watching some TV series in which there was an adolescent boy character named Eli. Maybe I liked that his name would be a part of my own. Eli, Elizabeth. But we couldn’t imagine ourselves calling this name across the playground — “Eli! Eli! Eli!” — and so we chose Aaron. It was the only name we both agreed on wholeheartedly. We liked the symmetry of the double vowels in the first name and double consonants in the last.
Still, for some weeks after he was born, we had trouble relating the name to the creature we held in our arms. He stared at us with huge blue eyes and we wondered who he was. Aaron? One day he wasn’t there, and the next he was, an event made hazier for me by lack of sleep, an epidural, morphine, and Vicodin. Over the next couple of months, when people called they asked, “How is Aaron?” and sometimes I had to pause to comprehend who they were asking about before I dutifully described his sleeping patterns and impressive weight gain and neck control and how he seemed to be insatiable. So hungry! We called him “the baby.” Can you watch the baby while I take a shower? Why don’t you take a nap while the baby is asleep? Do you want to take the baby for a walk? What about the baby?
And yet when we spoke to him, we must have called him Aaron because he soon knew his name. He turned his head when we said it, looked at us, blinking. “He knows his name already!” we said to each other. We were surprised at our pride in this small thing. When he was a couple of months old, we held a mirror up in front of him and asked “Is that Aaron?” and each time he smiled a toothless smile. Soon he began to answer “Is that Aaron?” with an enthusiastic “unh!”
Sometimes in the car he began to whine – frustrated, perhaps, at being made to face backwards, or that we had not yet arrived at our destination. To quiet him, I sang: the alphabet song, Old MacDonald, Frere Jacques (in English and French!), BINGO with my own made-up verses thrown in. I sang songs I didn’t know I knew. Sometimes the singing worked, sometimes it did not. But I soon learned that by asking “Is that Aaron?” his whine turned to a happy noise of recognition and cheered me as much as it did him.
Over the summer, we began playing games with Aaron. He was growing and learning to crawl and a few teeth appeared in his mouth. We were shocked — he didn’t look like a baby anymore, he looked like a little boy. It might sound strange, but for the first time I began to comprehend that the baby that we’d spent months preparing for, reading about and attending classes on how to care for was actually going to grow into a boy, a kid, a teenager, a man. “Where’s Aaron?” we asked him, and draped a small blanket over his head. He pulled it away from his face, thrilled at this new game, beaming when we said, “There he is!”
Recently we heard an Eli mentioned on TV, and we looked at each other: Were we really going to name him Eli? The name seemed foreign on our tongues, an intruder. He couldn’t be anything else but Aaron now, my husband said.
Now, at ten months old, Aaron starts the game himself. He covers his nose and one eye, sometimes both, with his hands. “Where’s Aaron?” I say. I make a big deal out of saying things like “I can’t see him anywhere!” or “I wonder where he went…” He peers at me through his fingers, cheating, squealing with delight. Soon, he lowers his hands, smiling. “There he is!” I say.