Mommy is a writer.
Which means that there are certain things you’ll just have to get used to. There is nothing you can do about my tendency toward bizarre headwear, nor my pretentious use of Google’s Word of the Day. Just be glad that this is not the eighties when writers had cocaine-and-whore parties while wearing neon socks.
But you will have to suffer through one key side effect of living with a writer. YOU WILL NEVER GET TO NAME ANYTHING.
My first dog’s name was Pup-Up. I can still imagine that poor dog trying to tell somebody his name, “Pup. Up. No. Up. Not pup. No. The first one is Pup. Second one is Up. No. Right, PUP! P … U … P … dash … U … ”
And then he would just give up and hamstring them.
I know, because I’m all, “S … I … G … No. I’m sorry. S as in Sam. Sigers, like tigers with an S instead of a T. SIGH. GRRZ … okay, are you going to present the back of your thighs? Or you gonna make me work for it?”
I’m sick of spelling my name, but I’m good at naming stuff.
My middle school’s literary journal, Bates Creates, still bears the name that I gave it.
At Northwestern at WNUR, I renamed the “All-Rap Party” to Six Feet Under.
I rescued this kitten out of a dumpster and named him Wayne. He was adopted by the Payne family. They kept his name the same.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE naming stuff!
Ah, but you, Amsden Rayder Withers, you were my special naming pleasure.
Let’s begin at the end, shall we? Although your father and I are shackin’ up like some long-haired hippies, I’m pretty traditional.
Your father requires me to add a disclaimer whenever I speak on this topic, pointing out that it is I who do not want to get married. He is ready.
In return, I require him to admit that it is he that falls asleep on the couch even after I demand that he come to bed and let me put my cold feet on him.
Anyway, I’m actually pretty traditional with the whole name change thing. You’re his son, you have his name. If I get married I’ll change mine.
Your Auntie Ty told me about an article she read about keeping kids out of gangs. Families have to kinda act like a gang in order to be sure that the kid knows that they belong to something.
So when I’m laying down the family rules, I just yell, THE WITHERS FAMILY DOESN’T ROLL LIKE THAT! WE DO NOT SHOVE PLAY-DOH INTO OUR UNDERWEAR!
I don’t hyphenate the family. It sounds a little crazy going, THE SIGERS-WITHERS FAMILY IS … pardon me? That’s S as in ‘Sam’ … I as in 'igloo’ …
Also, I wanted you to be a Withers because my dad never made me a Steele. When I got older, I told him that I wanted his last name, but he never got around to it.
Now that middle name, Rayder, was almost your first name because it is bad-ass. I still kind of wish I’d just gone with the Raider spelling.
But Amsden, let me tell you about Debbie Amsden.
Debbie Amsden is a wonderful producer. She was the head of production at an agency I worked for. I always loved that last name.
When I tell people that know Debbie and I, they get really confused. They wonder if maybe we were all secret BFFs or something. Was I going out tagging with she and her husband Dan?
I just liked the name. I sprung the name on your father, fully expecting him to veto. He had never heard that name before, and had never met the Amsdens. He chewed on it, repeated it, and said, “I like it.”
And I like Debbie.
I like Debbie 'cause she believes in kindness. The Amsden way is kindness for the neighbors, your coworkers, your former coworkers, the busdriver and that lady at the Burger King who is frowning.
I am aware that this kind of concern won’t migrate to you through a name.
But when I call your name, sometimes I think of her, and I am reminded that I should be a better me. That I should believe in kindness and put some effort into showing someone some.
That is how you will learn the Amsden way.
So that’s where your name came from, what it means to me, and the meaning that I want you to bring to it.