I've been thinking lately about how Alyce became Alyce. The process of naming a child is different for so many people, but for us it was easy, already written, so to speak. She was named before she was even conceived, that's how certain I felt that I was going to be gifted with a daughter. Truthfully, the name we gave her before conception wasn't Alyce, it was Mary Alyce. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Mary Alyce is my maternal grandmother. It is pronounced "Mary Alice," though with a French father it was probably intended to sound like "Mary Aleece." Mary Alyce was born in 1936 and still lives with my grandfather down the street from my mum. She's an intensely private person, so I won't share too much about her life here. (If she knew half of what I posted on this she would surely give me a talking to. Thank goodness for her distrust of the internet.) But I do want to tell the story of why our first daughter is named after this incredible woman of mine.
Mary Alyce loves hard. Like many of her generation she lived hard, too. There was little money, little food, and a lot of family to feed. She married my grandfather, William, when she was just shy of her sixteenth birthday and had given birth to six children by twenty-four. Her and my grandfather worked harder than I'll ever know to support their young family, but it wasn't those years of struggling that left a mark on my grandmother. From the very beginning of her life, even before her own children were born, she looked out for people, looks after them. She protects. She marvels in those she loves. She sees goodness in people that the world overlooks, whether in her own children or in those whose stories she hears.
I remember watching my grandmother reading the paper one day, hanging her head low over a story about a man who had committed an unspeakable crime. While her sons at the table were talking about crimes and punishments, she thought of that man, the child of a mother who loves him, and reached out to him with her heart. I realized that day that Mary Alyce's love wasn't limited to the good things people do. She passed that along to my mum, her only daughter, who, I hope, has passed that along to me.
Mary Alyce loves her family fiercely, so fiercely in fact, that I've struggled with the implications of this loyalty. How do you live in a bigger world when your love is so focused on your own family? There have been consequences for her, too, from loving so hard. Her family of eight is now only a family of six. She lost her first baby before his second birthday, and another before his forty-first. Of course I didn't know my grandmother as a woman losing her young baby, but I can imagine what it was like, though I'd rather not. If I allow myself, even for just a minute, to think about losing one of my young children, my perspective on the world changes immediately, going from light to dark. I did know my grandmother when another of her sons died, and I watched her heart break in pieces. My grandmother loves so ferociously because she understands what a gift it is. To love.
I have been magnetically attached to my grandmother my entire life, almost as much as I have orbited my own mum. I didn't know it then, though I am starting to learn now, that the women in my life are extraordinary. I took for granted that these women gave me such a gift, because the ability to love opened my life. When I had my own daughter (as I knew I would) I wanted to mark her life with the gifts of these women.
Around the fifth month of my pregnancy, Matt and I were just about to fall asleep in bed one night, when I rolled over and whispered in his ear, I think I was wrong. Her name is Alyce Mary. And of course it was. I wanted my daughter to share in the qualities of her great-grandmother, and there are many to pass down. As private as she is, I don't think she'd mind me telling you that she loves to sing, devours syrup on buttered toast, and, in her day, enjoyed a good party. And more than anything I want for my daughter to live a life filled with the Mary Alyce's love. But I also want for her to shape her own qualities, her own life. She'll take her own turn with this gift and so she needed her own turn with her name. Alyce Mary it was, then.
Alyce Mary, without a doubt, is already experienced in love. Her heart is bigger than I ever imagined could be contained in that tiny four year old body of hers. We chose well.
Thank you, Mary Alyce.