So I was ready to do an updates post again – call it an end-of-year nostalgia – and wanted to see not only how you’ve been doing, but whether I was anywhere close in my suggestions.  Partly because we’ve been talking about writing and what it’s for and what it does on Show Your Work recently (click here for our special writing episode) I thought it would be fun to look at the updates not just to find out what happened, but to look back at how close either I or the letter writer was to the center of the problem.  

I’m excited and prepared to be honest  – though, full disclosure, people who think I’m full of it tend not to send updates. That said, here we go: 

I’m glad, reading That Would Be Enough that my long-winded description of actually opening my inbox and using the trackpad to scroll actually wound up going somewhere – phewf. Like, do I think I’m David Foster Wallace, now? Still, I feel good about the answer. And apparently, the letter writer’s parents felt similarly: 

Hi Duana! 

I was thrilled to see you respond to my email back in March. We did end up naming our little girl Tory (Grace as a middle), and we love it but you were 100% spot on - a LOT of people ask if it's short for Victoria. 

But what's been a bit of a surprise is the amount of misspells we get from friends and family (despite announcing her birth on pretty much all forms of social media). Listen, Tory is a short spell and not THAT unusual, yet we get a lot of Torreys and Torries which .... is mildly annoying. And sometimes depending on the day I'm having, moderately annoying. 

Every once in a while I do wonder if we should have gone with Victoria formally but we didn't and she's here and she suits her name perfectly so no looking back. I predict we may have started a Tory popularity wave anyway so she won't have to spend the rest of her life going: "Tory. T-O-R-Y".

Tory's mom 


I remember choosing the letter in Working Out The Kinks because it felt like a brain teaser. Something I wasn’t sure I could actually accomplish, and in retrospect, I think I did an OK job – but I remember knowing that I hadn’t nailed it. Maybe an option I provided would be good, but there wasn’t a slam dunk.

Do you know how happy I am when I get scooped by a letter writer? No joke. Don’t get me wrong, I privately shake my head when the letter is “we want something creative but we might be afraid!” and then the reply is that they went with old faithful after all. I’m human. 

But when a name that stumped both of us before the baby arrived suddenly presents itself to the parents after the fact? Honestly, that is the work of naming, and it’s necessarily a team sport, and I bloody LOVE being in it with you all, especially the parents of… well, you read it: 

First, thank you Duana for taking the time to read and respond to my letter-it was so helpful at what was such a stressful time. 

As expected, our little guy came almost six weeks early. After a short stay in the NICU he is home and constantly being snuggled by his three big brothers.

And the name we chose.... Feliks Robert Wolfe! Ironically, Feliks (Russian spelling) wasn’t even on our radar until after he was born. He was so small in the incubator and made little mewing sounds it made me think of the old comic Felix the Cat, as silly as that sounds. And you were right about the letter K, it is a strong, confident letter and I love the way it looks in each of my boys names: Henryk, Benedikt, Konrad and Feliks. And I got my Wolfe in there! Thanks again!

Come on. It’s perfect, it’s unexpected, and it is the fourth name that was always supposed to be there. I love this so very, very much because it contributes to the discussion we’re all having, and because it points out for certain that names do matter. You can’t feel how perfect Feliks is with Henryk, Benedikt, and Konrad – even if you never see them written down – and not understand that naming is something very profound. I’m in your debt for sharing this. 


Finally, when it comes to this one, Nothing Is As It Seems, I remember thinking a lot about the “brother and sister with a married couple’s names” thing, and revising a lot to try to fine-tune my point, but in the end, that part isn’t what mattered, and I’m thrilled to find that the letter writer also focused on what mattered – her daughter’s name, and the sentiments attached to it. 

Hi Duana,

Thank you for your lovely and insightful response to my letter. When I wrote you initially, I was secretly hoping you'd find a way get me past the concerns I was having regarding our chosen name. Instead, you laid it out for me so clearly - and having people mishear or mispronounce our girl's name was not at all what I wanted. So, we chose Loree for the middle name after a brief flirtation with first names that could get a Loree nickname (Lorelai, Florence, etc.). And for the first name - we chose Hazel. No nickname as of yet, which is also something we previously thought important. Who knew.  

Anyway, we are so happy with where we ended up. People consistently mishear her middle name and I have to repeat/spell it... and that's OK!

One other thing I think is worth mentioning... As I said in my letter, Loree was my maternal grandmother's name. We love and miss her still. When I say Hazel's middle name, it feels special, and at first, also felt a bit sad - maybe a reminder that Grandma Loree is not here to meet her. Or maybe just postpartum hormones! Whatever it is, I hadn't anticipated that, and I thought it was worth mentioning.

Thanks for your help!

The above letter from Hazel Loree’s mother reminded me of an impression I get from letter-writers, but one that I have yet to scientifically examine through all the ‘update’ emails:  

I think people who debate ‘honour names’, regardless of whether they ultimately choose to use them, feel like those names have both more and less significance once the baby is born. That is, the affection for the name, and the person who wore it before grows, because how can you look at a little ball of human smelling like freshly baked bread (TM our friend Lorella) and not think about everyone who looked at you that way? And then in the same breath, realize that ball of human is brand new, and nothing external we can bestow will make them anything, any way – which makes an old name completely brand new.   

Do you agree with me? Do you not? Have you had a naming experience that contradicted what you thought you knew? 

I often get letters that start “Dear Duana, I don’t have a baby on the way, but…” and I am so goddamn lucky those people are in the conversation too. I think I’ll run some of those notes earlier this week, because they keep me in fresh ideas and thoughts and considerations, and make it super clear that I could not do this in a vacuum. So if you have something you’ve wanted me to know, please send it along, due date or not. 

And to the update providers - I cannot thank you enough for keeping me posted on both sides of your naming debates, and for letting me into the conversations in your lives that go way beyond the birth certificate.

I know retrospectives with this kind of tone are usually more associated with New Years, but you guys made my cup run over early this year, so I’m happy to have it spill over and over all week.