Seriously, what’s sweeter than a dad expressing love for his family? Because we were so thrilled with the love letters we got last Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, we’ve once again asked some culturatti dads to chime in on what makes their partners great.
We asked Benjamin Errett, an editor at The National Post and author of Jew and Improved, because a guy who writes a whole book about converting to Judaism so he can marry his wife probably has some funny and lovely things to say about his wife and kid.
Dear Sarah and the little shouty one,
Look at you both, sitting side by side working on your second feature film and/or chewing the oddly coloured toucan on your activity centre. Such industry! What a work ethic! I love you both in a way that I wouldn’t have understood just four short months ago. I sorta-kinda saw this coming, but didn’t really know what it was. It’s a bit like the way we named the little shouty one.
From the start, we had chosen Helena. That was your paternal grandmother’s name, and to sum up the backstory in Jew and Improved: How Choosing to Be Chosen Made Me a Better Man (just out in paperback from HarperCollins Canada!), it seemed a fitting way to honour a woman who had survived the nastiest parts of the twentieth century.
And yet it was hard to say. He-len-ah, we thought at first. It’s closer to the Czech original and the Anglo overtones have snob appeal. But He-lay-nah kept sneaking in. When her grandmother sang Baby Beluga, it was too tempting to modify the lyrics to Baby Helena, and the flat pronunciation didn’t work for what is unquestionably Raffi’s best song. Then there was the constant questioning: How do you say it? As though we had chosen some vowel-free traditional Welsh name or a string of hieroglyphics. The last gasp was Helena Bottom Farter, a very evocative mnemonic that amused us both in a way only severely sleep-deprived people can be amused. What if we kept calling her that, though? Imagine how hurtful it would be to an 8-year-old! And we dared not picture mean girls chanting it in the playground.
And so a compromise: Plum, her middle name. It wasn’t chosen to be trendy, though now we’ve seen everything from Plum District, a Groupon for moms (ugh) to Plum, an upscale multimedia lifestyle brand targeting The Hamptons (double ugh).
“Why don’t they just call her Apple?” I overheard my 89-year-old grandmother mutter, apparently unaware that this name was forever tainted by the lead singer of Coldplay.
But the name wasn’t suggested by the produce department. We picked our Plum as an inside joke, a reference to the prunes that are a regular part of my father-in-law’s diet and that have earned him the nickname The Prune. As an only child and the father of three girls, his name wasn’t likely to live on — and we felt that hyphenating our two frequently misspelled last names would be an unfair burden. So we continued his legacy while at the same time making fun of him. That, Sarah and Plum, is what this family (hey, we’re a family!) does: Tradition, but our way, and hopefully involving a prank. And that’s what I love about us.
And that’s also a small example for how fatherhood surprised me. We had Helena ready to go. It cleared beta-testing and hit all the bases. But when push (and push! and push!) came to shove, we ended up with a shouty little Plum. Some days she’s Plumblebee, or Plumbum (a bit leaden), or Plumbles, or Plum Sauce, or Plumloco, or The Plumberina. Most days, she’s not quite who we expected. But each and every day, she’s exactly who we wanted. And Sarah, that goes double for you.
Image via Harper Collins Canada