Monday, July 21, 2014

Names and Labels

When we were naming our children, there were a few considerations. One, of course, was to name them after relatives who had died. This is a prevalent custom amongst Ashekazi Jews, which we are. So that was easy. I wanted them to have names that moved easily between Hebrew and English, and it was a bonus if the names were biblical.

It was pretty easy to name Sam. We loved the name Samuel Asher. When he was born, it fit him like a little name-glove.

We never really thought about how prevalent the name Sam was, both for boys and girls. Okay, so it was the 47th (and 91st - Sam got its own category, Samuel was 47th) most popular name for boys in 2005. And in that same year, Samantha was the 20th most popular name for girls. So that's a lot of Sams and Sammys running around, if you ask me.

(According to the Social Security Administration, Samuel has been in the top 100 for the last 100 years. So um, there's that.)

You know, it didn't really matter. Sure, there were others named Sam. Big deal.

And now? Sometimes it matters a lot. I hear someone calling "Sam!" out on the playground and I whip around, my heart in my throat. And sometimes I meet someone named Sam or Sammy and I smile, so glad to speak that name.

Maybe you've noticed recently the Coke and Diet Coke bottles and cans that say "share a coke with..." And then there's a name. They seem to be random, each store has a stock of different names. 

It seems so silly and yet....I wanted to buy up every Sam bottle in the store (I didn't, just this one). And I wanted to imagine others buying them and sharing a coke with Sam. Sometimes I don't have to imagine - people have shared their pictures with me, when they've found the Sam cans or bottles. Does Sammy diet coke taste different? Maybe....

(Sam, who really didn't like Coke. I guess that's not the point...)

We mention his name so casually in our house. The other day, Yael and Solly were playing a "game" in which she was the "mommy" and he was "Sammy." It made my heart hurt to hear her call him Sammy. 

And it also made my heart feel a little better. I can't imagine never hearing anyone say his name. Sometimes I whisper it in the dark before bed. Just to make sure it's been said enough times that day. 


Feather on the ground at Bay Beach in Green Bay yesterday

2009 at Bay Beach in Green Bay


  1. wishing you continued sweet memories and love for all your sweet children.thank you for sharing with us.

  2. I saw a feather in the grass on the way to dinner the other night. So I looked at it and said "Hi Sam!"

  3. in my whole life (and i'm almost 53 years old) i don't think i had ever found a feather until sam died. now, i find them all the time and each time i think of sam and all of you. just wanted you to know that someone who has never met any of you is thinking of you and sam so very often.

  4. Hi Rabbi Phyllis!
    This blog really touched me. Judi and Harold were in Cincinnati seeing his father who is very ill. They had Debbie and Sammie with them, and they came to see me in Louisville while they were there and again on their way home.
    Yup,Sammie is one special name, for ever and ever and ever! Your Sammie and our Sammie, and isn't it wonderful that they knew each other and loved playing together.
    Happy memories for you!!
    Love, Grandma Joan