A week ago today, on another beautiful Sunday in New York City, our son was born with the Manhattan skyline visible from our 10th floor delivery room at NewYork Presbyterian. We named our son this morning at his bris. Today feels like it’s been a very long time coming, and we’ve been overwhelmed with the emotions that come with adding a new member to the family.
That newest member is Nathan Loggins Parker.
Nathan is getting his name from several sides of mine and Stephen's families. Most of my family isn’t at all surprised by the choice to name him after my zayde, Nathan Roth. I think I called dibs on it shortly after his funeral almost 9 years ago.
The first Nathan was a complicated man with a complicated life story. He was born in a shtetl in far eastern Czechoslovakia. He survived Birkenau, harsh labor, and death marches. He married a feisty redhead and got involved in the black market, then fled the communists. He started a newspaper in the displaced persons camp in Germany, before finally being relocated to Dallas. He dug ditches for the city. He began acting, including a stint in Waiting for Godot, which he quoted until the end of his life. He worked for more newspapers, moved to Wooster, Ohio, and then Detroit, where he eventually settled at the ad agency that would round out his career. In retirement he camped out at a Barnes & Noble, which he treated like his own personal office and library, talking to people and reading everything he could get his hands on.
Zayde was a passionate man. He was brilliant but tortured, haunted by his experiences and survival. So much so that the man I knew as my zayde, was not the same man that my father knew as his dad.
For all those complications, he was a great zayde. And our relationship thrived because of the things we had in common. He loved words and creativity, both things for which Stephen and I share a lot of passion, and which Nathan can expect to grow up surrounded by. Zayde was always encouraging (read: pushing) his grandchildren to be creative in that basement art studio filled with stolen supplies from the ad agency. He always wanted to read what we’d written for school. He coached us to be articulate and thoughtful in our public speaking because the right words, spoken loudly and clearly were important. While we know that little Nathan will have his own loves and strengths, we hope that curiosity, appreciation of language, and creative energy will be part of them.
I was fortunate to be a first-born granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors. Their history was a hallmark in my Jewish identity, and I grew up knowing that I was a link in an important legacy. Now that they’re both gone, I’ve felt that legacy more acutely. It’s sad to know that my children won’t grow up knowing any survivors, especially their great-grandparents. But Bubbie and Zayde would both be happy to know that their stories and names are being passed on to the next generation.
Nathan is obviously a Parker. Some day I’ll instruct him on the finer points of writing the Parker “P”, teach him about servant leadership, and tell him all about the fathers of old. But he is also a Loggins...
I have always considered it a point of great pride that my mother gave me her family name as my middle name, and over the years the name Loggins has come to mean a great deal to me. When I hear the name today I think about what it means to be a family, and I think about the people who raised me. I remember the familiar sounds of people reading the morning paper aloud to each other, the sound of chatter over cocktail hour, and the smell of vegetable soup simmering on the stove.
I think about a group of people that love each other, a group that absolutely refuses not to be together during the holidays. I think about people completely devoted to the accurate recreation of tradition. And, I think about a group of people forever heartsick about the loss of their mother, Beverly.
When I think about all these things, I know exactly what’s in a name, and I think Loggins is a pretty good one. It’s a great privilege then to be able to pass on the Loggins family name to my son as his middle name. I hope that it will be a conversation starter for him in the schoolyard, as it was for me, and perhaps nudge him toward the preservation of family history.