What’s In a Name?

…Actually, quite a bit for our baby boy

Our daughter McKinley was named after what was then named Mt. McKinley in Alaska, North America’s tallest peak at over 20,000 feet.  We wanted to attach a moniker to our daughter that reflected our lifestyle, our values, and what we hope will become her lifestyle and values as well.  As the birth of our baby boy loomed in 2015, my wife Liza and I wanted to approach his name in a similar manner.  Most importantly, like McKinley, we wanted a name we wouldn’t find on one of those souvenir store keychain displays—we wanted something unusual.

We had a middle name picked early, deciding on James to honor my father and Liza’s grandfather.  During Liza’s pregnancy, we had some very preliminary discussions about first names, but not often and never extensively.  So when our little guy was born 12 weeks early in March 2015, we were caught more than just a little off guard.

Our working list of names reflected our inclination for outdoorsy, nature themed monikers, such as Hunter and Rainier.  Bryce was inspired by Bryce National Park, which we visited on our honeymoon.  Everest has obvious origins.  Taylor was a name that ended up on both Liza’s and my final favorite three list.  Taylor is the name of a river, a lake, and a high mountain park in one of our favorite areas of Colorado—near Crested Butte.  Also on both of our final favorite three lists was Logan.  Located in the Canadian territory of Yukon, the 19,551-foot Mount Logan is the second tallest peak in North America.  Logan had probably been my favorite name, as I figured that if our first born was named after our continent’s tallest mountain then our second born ought to be named Logan.

Liza’s main concern with Logan was that it has become exceedingly popular with parents lately.  It ranked in the top twenty of all male baby names.  The same could be said about Taylor, which was in the top 50 and rising fast thanks to the moron from the Twilight movies.  Unfortunately, those two names will undoubtedly be on those souvenir store keychain racks soon, if they aren’t already.

I began to second guess what was probably my favorite name, Logan, the moment our boy was born.  Arriving as early as he did, some twelve weeks, nothing is a given.  His lungs weren’t developed enough for him to breath on his own, so a machine had to keep him alive initially.  It was enough for even a positive person like me to have horrible “what if” scenarios racing through his mind as we prepared for Liza’s C-section.  So when I watched our son delivered, being pulled from the womb literally kicking and screaming, I witnessed for the first time how tough he is.  In the following days, he progressed faster than we could have hoped.  He was removed from the ventilator and placed on a lessor breathing apparatus.  Some of his vitals were more in line with preemies a couple of weeks or more along.  I realized that as much as I liked the name Logan and the concept of our second born being named after North America’s second summit, our boy was one tough son of a gun and he did not deserve to take second to anything.

The third name on Liza’s and my favorite lists was Denali.  Inspired by the national park, it is also the Native American name for Mt. McKinley.  While researching the name Denali, we learned that it’s an Athabaskan word which translates (roughly) into “the great one.”  It’s appropriateness struck Liza and I immediately.  It also seemed to us quite a meaningful bond for McKinley and her brother.  We gave ourselves a full day “trial period” of using the name just between the two of us before we decided officially.

Denali James Grimes is indeed a “great one,” a tough kid who at only a few days old was already impressively fighting a battle most of us luckily avoided.  He was as determined to stay as an immovable mountain of rock.

Without a doubt, when the kids are old enough we will take a family trip to Denali National Park.  When the early morning mist begins to clear and our kids see for the first time Denali towering before them, I will explain to them that their names are not just names.  Their names are a shared symbol, an appeal from their parents to always explore, seek adventure, and to rise above all the challenges and obstacles in their lives.  I have no doubts McKinley will do just that.  Denali was already doing it the day he was born.

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