Name That Baby by Carol Iberger

Editor’s note: The following writing by North Shore resident Carol Iberger is the latest installment from the 2016 Marblehead Seniors Memoir Project: To Write a Life, held at the JCC. Please check back for future workshops and opportunities to connect with other fellow writers. 

What do you name a baby who is about to die in your arms? We watched as the last few pink bubbles protruded from her perfect rosebud lips, as she was slipping away on a cold January Sunday morning.

The hospital chaplain leaned in closer to us and gently asked as to the name we had chosen for our baby girl. We hadn’t. This was so unexpected. Why couldn’t I think of a name for our almost 7-month premature, perfectly formed baby girl with ten fingers and ten toes? Sadly, her little lungs did not arrive fully developed, and so here we were.

Think. Think, I begged my foggy heartbroken self. I glanced at my husband who was nervously stroking her tiny forehead with his pinky. His wet tear-streaked face looked back at me as he mouthed the words, “Whatever name you chose for her is OK with me.”

What DO you name a baby girl who is slowly leaving this earth? Does naming her right now make her go more quickly? Do we choose the name we had picked out a few months ago that we really loved? But of course, that meant we could not use our favorite name again for another baby. Do we choose a name just for this baby, so we can save our “chosen” name for perhaps another baby–is that a macabre/perverse thought?

My little angel was ready to go, but she needed me this one last and only time in her short life!

We had a name that was still a working contender behind our first choice. So we agreed on that name.  Her middle name was more of a struggle now–we hadn’t thought that far ahead. Unbelievably, I chose a classmate’s name who sat next to me all four years of high school over 20 years ago. She was kind and gentle and it felt like a safe name. Time was of the essence. Now she had her name. Just for her.

Alyssa Jill left on a cloud shortly thereafter. I love saying her name, the name I chose!

–Carol Iberger

BIO: Carol Iberger spent the first half of her career in corporate sales selling East Coast displays to Fortune 500 Companies and now works as an interior designer, for which she was featured on Channel 7’s Room for Improvement. She has been married for 36 years, has three adult children, and just became a first-time grandmother.

Saturdays With My Grandfather by F. Marshall Bauer

My grandfather was building superintendent of Philadelphia’s Franklin Science Museum. He worked a six-day week, so every Saturday—from the ages of seven to sixteen—I hopped into his gray Chrysler and went to what he called “the place” (why, I’ll never know).

The museum’s tag line was, “Science is Fun,” and that’s exactly what these Saturday holidays were. In the Hall of Chemistry, you pushed a button and peered into a glass enclosure where oxygen and hydrogen were mixed—and with a gentle popping sound, a few drops of water appeared.

A kid (or grownup) could learn physics by sitting on a revolving stool while holding two hinged handles, which expanded and pulled his or her arms outward by centrifugal force.

In the aviation room, you looked up at the airplane that Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic, sat in the open cockpit of an ancient canvas-covered biplane, and got the feel of flying at the controls of a WWII Link trainer.

The Fels Planetarium contained a giant dumbbell-shaped instrument studded with lenses, which re-created the night skies of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As you watched, an astronomer wove legends of the universe and named the stars within projected pictures of a bull, a lion, and a hunter with his arm upraised.

You entered through the front door, which opened on the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial: a twenty-foot marble statue of Ben seated in an armchair, greeting visitors with a kind of paternal placidity. Standing in this sixty-foot domed rotunda, I literally grew up in the shadow of the man, which is why he became my mentor and role model.

–F. Marshall Bauer

Bio: Marshall Bauer has been writing for most of his life. He began as an advertising copywriter, then writer/producer of computerized training programs and coauthor of Fearless Flying.  His current book is Marblehead’s Pygmalion.