When we were struggling to find a good name for Ezra, we looked forward to the day when we’d have a girl. Naming her would be so easy! Beautiful girls’ names were in abundance, while boys’ names were all so dumb.
Then we got pregnant with a girl. We excitedly opened up those same books, ready to be won over again by all the same names we were enamored with two years earlier. It didn’t happen. Now it was girls’ names that all sounded dumb. Too prissy. Too hip. Too old-fashioned. Too self-obsessed to talk to you in the hallway. (Maybe we were projecting?)
We came up with a short list of a dozen or so names. My favorites didn’t align with Sarah’s. We did have one name we both really liked, but soon discovered a fatal flaw: it sounded too much like the name of a living relative, a big Jewish no-no.
We really wanted to honor a deceased relative, a big Jewish yes-yes, and the prime candidate was my Grandmother Gisela, aka Gizi, who died in 2006, shortly after our wedding. She was a commanding force, a matriarch of the family, and someone whose memory should long be remembered. And given how rarely our family has girls, we knew we had to seize this chance.
We both felt “Gisela” itself was… too much for a twenty-first century American girl. Ditto “Gizi.” Plus, I didn’t like that she’d have the exact same name as my grandmother. I wanted a variation. We stewed on it, and couldn’t come up with something. We tried other G names — none fit quite right. Then, our friend Donna had an idea: what about Zella?
It was perfect. We fell in love immediately.
As we are incapable of making a decision before absolutely necessary, we hemmed and hawed for months. It was a bold name, to be sure. Too bold? We leaked it to a few friends, to test it out. They all responded positively. We tried a few other names, but nothing stuck, and we always came back to Zella.
Her middle name was easier. Ruth was Sarah’s grandmother, who also died in 2006, a few weeks after Gizi. It’s technically what the R in Ezra stands for, but we decided to just let that slide. It’s doubly appropriate because Ruth always said her birthday was Valentine’s Day, which was Zella’s due date. But actually, it’s triply appropriate, because it wasn’t really her birthday, nor did it turn out to be Zella’s.
We are thrilled to name her for these particular grandmothers, because of our four grandmothers, these were the two who got to share in our excitement about each other as we moved past courtship and towards marriage and family. We’re sad they never got to see their granddaughter, but we’re happy she’ll get to carry on their memories for generations.