“What do you think they’ll call her? I hope it’s a name I’ll be excited about”
iriam couldn’t stop singing. After five brothers, her brand new baby sister had arrived! Bubby came to stay with them until Mommy and the baby could come home. Miriam tried to be as helpful as she possibly could. After all, soon her very own little princess would be there. Miriam couldn’t wait.
On Thursday, Miriam came into the kitchen. “Bubby,” Miriam said, “Can I bake a cake for Shabbos? I want to decorate it with pink frosting.”
“Do you know how to bake?” Bubby asked.
Miriam nodded. “Of course! I bake for Shabbos all the time!”
“Then go right ahead,” Bubby said.
Miriam flipped through a cookbook. “I’ll make a vanilla cake,” she decided. “That’s yummy, and it will look pretty with pink icing.” Her mouth watered. She started gathering the ingredients. Bubby left her to go find the boys.
As Miriam was measuring flour, her best friend Elisheva from next door popped in. Miriam gave her a wide smile. “Hi, Elisheva! I’m making a cake for Shabbos in honor of the new baby.”
“It’s so exciting,” Elisheva said, as she joined Miriam at the counter. “I’m happy you finally got a sister. Do you think your parents will name her on Shabbos?”
“Yup, they said they would,” Miriam confirmed. “I was hoping they’d name her today, but I guess they’re used to having eight days before naming babies!” She laughed.
“Yeah, I guess so, but Shabbos isn’t far away,” Elisheva said. “Will you go to shul to hear the name?”
“I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my mother. I’m so excited. What do you think they’ll call her? I hope it’s a name I’ll be excited about.”
“Like what?” Elisheva asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Miriam said dreamily, gently stirring the batter. “Maybe Avigayil or Atara…”
“Those are pretty names,” Elisheva agreed, passing Miriam the hand mixer. “I like Ahuva, too, and my aunt’s name is Nechama, which is nice.”
“Yeah.” Miriam smiled. “I can’t wait.”
On Friday, the baby came home, with a powder-pink blanket and a small, scrunched-up face. Miriam hugged her mother tightly, glad to have her back, and washed up so she could hold the baby. She waited her turn impatiently as Bubby held the baby first. Finally she was really, truly holding her new baby sister and cuddling her gently on the couch, admiring her lovingly.
Shabbos morning arrived. Miriam threw open the window in her room, letting sunlight and fresh air pour in. She dressed quickly and ran downstairs to help her mother. Before she could even ask, Mommy smiled at her and said, “Miriam, you probably want to go to shul to hear the baby’s name.” Miriam jumped. “Yes, please!”
Mommy chuckled. “Just help me get the boys dressed, and then you can go. Why don’t you take Elisheva with you?”
“Great idea!” Miriam dressed the little ones and then ran to knock on Elisheva’s door. Soon they were walking together in the wintery sunlight toward the shul. Miriam put her hands in her pockets and shivered with anticipation.
In shul, Miriam tried to daven carefully, but her heart was beating quickly with excitement. She tried not to flip the pages to see when they’d start Krias HaTorah. Time seemed to move too slowly, but suddenly, they were taking the Torah out of the aron kodesh and preparing for leining. Elisheva squeezed Miriam’s hand, and Miriam squeezed back.
Beautiful names danced around Miriam’s head as she tried to focus on the leining. Avigayil and Atara remained her favorite, but she tried to be generous and think of other pretty names. Maybe… Ayala? Rachel was pretty, too, even if it was too common, Miriam thought to herself. Suddenly Elisheva squeezed her hand tightly again and pointed at the siddur. This was it! This was the Mi Shebeirach! Miriam’s heart galloped in her chest, and her mouth felt dry. She licked her lips, swallowed hard, and shared a quick smile with Elisheva as they waited to hear the name.
At first Miriam couldn’t believe it. She stood still. Maybe she’d misheard? Miriam buried her head in her siddur and hoped Elisheva didn’t notice her shoulders shaking. Tears leaked out of her eyes and stained the pages of the siddur. Henya Ettel! Where did that name come from? How could she show her face in school tomorrow and tell her classmates that her beautiful baby’s sister name was Henya Ettel?
Elisheva patted her back awkwardly. Miriam moved away. How was she going to look at her parents after davening? The tears came fast and furious. Miriam couldn’t believe her parents would give her sister a name like that. She felt so sorry for her.
On the way home from shul, Miriam avoided her father’s eyes. Elisheva was quiet. When they reached her house, she said softly, “Good Shabbos, Miriam, mazal tov.” Miriam couldn’t bring herself to respond. Tatty tried to take her hand, but Miriam shied away.
In the house, Mommy was waiting for them with a big smile. “Here’s Henny,” she said to all the boys. “Her name is Henya Ettel. She’s named for my grandmother, who was a very big tzadeikes. We’re going to call her Henny.” She reached out for Miriam, but Miriam avoided her.
The seudah was long and hard for Miriam. She felt like crying the whole time. After bentshing she went up to her room and lay on her bed, feeling sorry for Henny and sorry for herself.
Some time passed before Mommy came into the room, without Henny. Mommy sat on the bed next to Miriam and gave her a hug. “You don’t like Henny’s name, do you?” she whispered.
Miriam shook her head and tears crept out of her eyes again.
“It’s not as pretty as you might have wanted,” Mommy went on gently. Miriam nodded.
“You know,” Mommy said, “before I married Tatty, I didn’t like his name, either. I’d never heard the name Ezriel before, and it didn’t sound so nice to me. But because I knew deep inside that a person’s name is not all the person is, I agreed to meet Tatty, and you know what? I am so glad I did, because he’s the best Tatty in the world. Even though I didn’t really like his name so much.”
Miriam listened in surprise. She felt so mature that Mommy was sharing this personal information with her. She wondered if Tatty knew that Mommy hadn’t liked his name.
“But then you know what, Miriam,” Mommy continued in a whisper, “as time went by, and I got to know Tatty better and better, I discovered his name didn’t bother me so much anymore. Eventually I felt I even liked the name! Now I think it’s one of the most beautiful names in the world.” She rubbed Miriam’s back. “I know Henya Ettel doesn’t sound like the prettiest name around, but Henny’s not so bad, is it?” Miriam nodded grudgingly. “And I want us both to focus on the tzadeikes that she’s named after,” Mommy whispered. “My Bubby was a very special person.”
Miriam looked up at her mother and wiped her eyes. “I guess I’ll learn to love her name, too, right?”
“You will,” Mommy promised. Then she winked. “Even if only her nickname!”
Miriam had to laugh.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 932)
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