When my wife and I considered a name for our son, deliberating between the traditional, the lyrical, the new age unique, we ultimately decided on Finn one week after his birth. This compact, four-digit title fit him perfectly, hence the agreement, but its designation to this brand new human being in our lives came with a cost. While I wouldn’t change it now, nor do I regret the choice to name our child Finn, this decision did equate to a certain measure of loss.
Allow me to explain.
I had to abandon a life-long desire to trudge in the snow, ideally in a hedge maze in the darkness of night, calling out to my boy, reprimanding him, demanding he slow down and return to me, tracking his light footsteps in the fresh snowfall which would eventually lead me to him, yelling –growling even– a two-syllable, five-digit siren song that is the name which my son is ultimately not called: Danny.
Well, if any of that chasing-your-small-boy, snowy hedge maze stuff seems familiar to you, it is probably because it recounts a famous scene from a well-known movie. Imagine Jack Nicholson, drunk on ghost booze –that is, Jack Daniels doubles that do not exist, yet have their desired effect– axe in hand, fresh from conversing with malignant spirits –Lloyd, the bartender, who is incorporeal, Mr. Grady, who was the caretaker– invigorated by the murder of an innocent cook, limping after a staircase stumble yet mobile enough, fueled by madness and a need to kill his family. Did I want this for myself? Well, no. Not actually. But I always dreamed of scolding my boy –no axe necessary– calling out to him, raspy, threatening, big-bad-wolf delivery: Danny! Danny, which, of course, is the name of Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson’s) child in the wonderful Stanley Kubrik masterpiece, The Shining.
How cool would it be for my son, hypothetically named Danny, to spill his Lego box or kick the cat or flick his toothpaste intentionally on the mirror. Then, having witnessed this, for me to go faux crazy, eyes manic, affecting that madman persona and howling out DANNY! Honestly, the notion has me desperate to live it out in reality. Finn is five years old. Is it too late to change my child’s name?
Maybe I will have another kid? Maybe another boy? Maybe it will be a girl and I can still name her Danny, or Dani, or Dany, like Daenerys Targaryen. I could lead up to the whole Jack Nicholson bit with a Game of Thrones inspired warning: “Don’t wake the dragon!”
I don’t know. Maybe I can just get my jollies watching The Shining twice a year like I have for the last twenty-five, ever since I saw it at age thirteen, alone in the dark. That experience left the most beautiful array of scars.
When I travel, I elect to stay at cheap motels –not exactly the Overlook Hotel but it’s the best I can manage, all I can afford. I ask for room 237. There, I stay up all night waiting for a waterlogged old lady to emerge from the bathroom door which I leave ajar. It is never worth it. The pruned crone never shows her half-rotten face. Maybe this is for the best? Maybe things will come together if I continue to try? Maybe I can get by on these desperate attempts to fill a vacancy that hovers like a ghost in my gut. Can I keep this sort of behavior up for a lifetime? Do I have a choice?
Or, who knows, maybe I’ll have that other child. Maybe Finn, as an older boy, can play the part of Wendy, the frantic, horrified housewife. My neighbor, who I hate, can play the cook. Maybe I’ll kill him for real. Rachel, my wife, is a videographer. Maybe she could film it? Maybe something is wrong with me?
Point is, I missed out on something beautiful when I named my son Finn. Still, I love the kid with all my soul. I’d die for him, easy. I’d rip out my guts for him, tear open my heart. After all, it beats for him. Really, it does.
I would chase him down, axe in hand, and call out among the dark, snowy night. I’d see that he had retraced his footsteps in the snow. I’d see that he had tried to outsmart me. I’d smile, deranged, and let it go. I’d let him win. I’d whisper out on the vapor of my very last breath: Finn.
And you know something? It wouldn’t carry a single syllable of regret.