Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dani's Naming Ceremony

By Jocelyn Guggenheim

Dani Marcella is named for grandparents, Dena and Melvin.

Dena was my grandmother. Her full name was Clementina Dena but everyone called her Dena or Dee. She was a warm and funny woman who spent her adult life taking care of her children, grandchildren and her husband Rick. Her first language was Italian but after years of speaking English in school she forgot most of it, save some often quipy, poignant or wise phrases we often called “Deeisms.”

Whenever I called she would say “Ah Jocelina che successe?” meaning Jocelyn what's up? She called me Jocelina Bella Girl so often when I was a child I thought that was my full name and introduced myself accordingly.  Her best “Deeisms” were more punchy with choice phrases about boys interested in her daughters or granddaughters or a favorite “inamore li chiege” when you told her she looked nice. “All the blind men love me,” she quipped. 

Dena loved her family, she loved babies, she was an incredible cook and baker, and she was soft and warm, creating a safe glow in her home and any home she entered. She was also strong, never one to back down when her family needed her support and resolve.

Dani means “God is my judge.” Dena was Catholic but when my mother, Claudia, told her that she was converting to Judaism and raising her children as Jews, Dena’s response was “there are many paths to God.” She wasn’t worried about what others thought of her or of my mother’s choice.

Our hope is that Dani inherits Dena’s warmth and humor, and that she always feels surrounded by the glow of love that Dena brought with her and bestowed on all of those around her.

By Evan Guggenheim

Melvin was my grandfather. He went by Mel, but to us he was “Poppy”. I remember taking long walks with Poppy and his walking sticks, chatting about life, literature, or whatever idea popped into his mind. He never treated us like little kids, except when he was smooshing our faces with scratchy beard kisses.

Poppy was as fearless as he was unconventional. He filled every room a booming opera of love and laughter. Poppy was a pacifist who fought in WWII, and a middle-aged Jew who helped start up an African-American studies program at the University of Hartford. Poppy was never afraid to buck trends and stereotypes to follow his passions.

When his colleagues refused to stop smoking at meetings he showed up with his WWII gas mask and wore it throughout the meeting. He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what he thought.

It was frustratingly difficult to find a female name with a meaning that wasn’t submissive or docile. Marcella means “Little Warrior” and was the name of Jocelyn’s great aunt, who was also an educator like Papi. We look forward to watching Dani, like her gregarious bearded namesake, tear down convention and make the world a better place.  

No comments: