What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Juliet famously persuades “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She was love sick, but she wasn’t wrong. Had the rose been named, say, pickle, it still would have been just as beautiful, and easy on the eyes, nose, and fingertips. Likewise, Romeo still would have been a looker had he been called Herbert. But let’s be real, a graceful name helps to make giving and receiving this ethereal flower – or dating a hunk – all the more romantic and extraordinary. Even pregnant and generally famished, I’d rather receive a bouquet of roses than pickles. I know several parents who proudly gave their daughters the middle name Rose. Bottom line, words are powerful and names matter.
When I was 28 weeks pregnant, you were the size of a butternut squash, and your father had exhausted more veto power than I ever could have imagined, we finally named you: Bradley Phoenix Coppens. Never Brad, always Bradley. Your friends and future girlfriends will challenge this – which will, admittedly, annoy me – but your parents will always honor your true name. Your initials are BPC, which I like because it rhymes, and I’m cheeky like that. One day, likely when you’re learning to write your name, you’ll wonder why we named you Bradley Phoenix. You may think: ordinary name, city in the desert, but it’s really so much more than that. Sweet son, here’s the story of how you became you:
First things first, you needed a first name. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, your dad is particular and forward thinking. In the age of baby name lists saturated with exotic spellings of normal words, nicknames, unisex names, fruits – yes, fruits – and random adjectives, your dad appreciated tradition. He wanted to provide you with a strong name, one where the spelling and origin would never be pondered or judged. He had the foresight to consider that you may become President of the United States or the CEO of a fortune 500 company, which you likely launched, so not only should your name look stately on letterhead, but it needed to be respectable, too. Can citizens or a workforce really get behind a guy named Cloud, Kourage or Cabbage? Your dad thought not.
Shortly after my dentist diagnosed me with pregnancy gingivitis and swollen feet three times their usual size was my new normal, I finally got on your dad’s wavelength. It was like my entire body was oozing with you, yet you had no name other than “baby boy.” It was time to get serious, not to mention monogramming. I presented: Luke, Scott, and Brooks. To which he replied: “Luke Skywalker? No. Scott? Hate it. Brooks? As in Brooks Brothers? Nope.” Veto abuser.
In truth, your dad named you. When I finally urged him to be serious and tell me what names he’s always liked, he very easily offered Bradley, not Brad – reason number 633 that your dad and I were meant to be. He explained that he had wanted to name your brother Bradley, which I thought was particularly profound for such an unsentimental guy like your dad. It became quite evident to me that he’s been waiting to give you this name. He’s been waiting for you. I didn’t reveal it to him just then, but you became Bradley that instant.
On to Phoenix. If you ask me, middle names are of value. They add wholeness to a person’s identity, and if thoughtfully arranged, regality in this basic world. Plus, they’re handy when being disciplined and on marriage invitations, too. I see future me over enunciating your entire name when I’ve busted you sneaking snacks as a kid or out the back door as a teen. The beauty of it will help me cope with the reality that you’re acting like a young, fun me. Karma. Your dad’s a two-name man, and even he agrees that his monogrammed accessories fall short. He’s the type of dad who strives to give his children so much more than he ever had. Names included. But as you’ll learn, your mama is a clever girl and life is like a game of chess. You see, your dad chose your first name, so I automatically got to choose your middle name. Checkmate.
While your dad plans ahead for total domination in the corporate or political scene, I said to myself, “What if he becomes an actor or musician? His name has to sound strong, and be unique without being weird.” The hunt was on. I plucked ideas from my baby name list in the notes section of my iPhone. I clicked through baby name lists online. My eyes laser focused on scrolling TV and movie credits. I googled what famous people name their kids and what’s trending in other countries. I considered family names and charming southern ones, too. And then it hit me. I will not give you your first or last name; your middle name was my single shot at giving you a piece of me. A total narcissist would give you their own name, but like I said, initials matter. And while I do have my fair share of obsessions, myself is not one of them. Cancel the hunt. Inspiration was what I needed. Enter nostalgia – my favorite pastime.
Phoenix came to me in a dream. Just kidding. I was swimming with your Gigi and sisters, well, treading water – you’ll eventually accept this about me. But back to you, back to Phoenix. Gigi adored it, naturally. Your sisters thought it sounded cool and weren’t the least bit surprised because they know how much I love my roots. Bradley, when I fly home to Arizona, I cry. When I leave, I cry. Not necessarily because I’m sad, but because Phoenix is – in the cheesiest, yet most honest revelation – my heart. Like so many others who just simply exist where they reside, I didn’t truly realize my affection for Arizona until I left her.
For me, it’s the smell of the desert after the rains or in the dead of night; the sound of the wind rustling bits of desert floor across smooth asphalt; and the colors of the sunrise. Don’t even get me started on the sunsets. They’re the best in the world – and I’ve trotted this globe. When I was a kid, I would watch the sun set behind a mountain and was almost certain that if I just walked to the other side, I’d find it in jammies fast asleep. I’ve closed my eyes and swayed to a rain dance, played barefoot in monsoons, romped through the desert chasing dust storms, pool crashed most of the resorts, and never stopped marveling at the blooming palo verde trees – as yellow and green as brand new Crayola crayons. When a saguaro cactus blooms, you stop and pay attention. If you’re like me, you take a photo. Drive the Loop 101 with me and I’ll bet you I comment on how the mountains look today. Ask your Auntie Jennifer and she’ll tell you I’ve always been like that. Perhaps I’ve been enamored with the Valley of the Sun all along.
Phoenix is where the patriarch of my family, your Great Grandpa Bud, pretended to be your Great Grandma Connie’s date because his friend was too chicken to meet her parents. It might have been the universe’s grandest gesture of all time, because that friend never did get another date and Grandpa and Grandma went on to have a family of four children, 10 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren – you make 20. Yes, you have a big family. Here’s a tip from Mommy: Don’t be last in line for the gravy at Thanksgiving or you’re not getting any gravy on Thanksgiving. Sweetheart, it’s every man for himself.
Picturesque Arizona, a backdrop for the “Wild West,” is the backbone of who I am. Like the desert, I’m a tumbleweed of mystery, color, solitude, tranquility, and passion that’s – at once – calculated and reckless. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for your daddy wrangling my heart, I don’t think I would have ever left that place in the sun. My heart’s home has traveled from Phoenix to daddy, and now, with you, back to Phoenix. In me, Phoenix elicits pride, adoration, and heritage. You already entice much of the same, and we haven’t even been formally introduced. Some say that over the span of your existence, I will give you “my everything,” and you will become “my world.” I have a feeling they’re right. So to begin, I will give you a middle name that means everything to me, a middle name that represents something special in this wide world. Phoenix. I hope you like it. Or can at least appreciate how much thought went into it. Your name is how you meet the world before it has the chance to get to know you. If nothing else, I’ve teed up a nice icebreaking conversation with future employers and girlfriends. Look at me, being a mom and a wingman. I’ve totally got this. You’ve totally got this.
Earlier, I said that words are powerful and names matter. Scratch that, names are meaningful. Your name is meaningful. But nice try, Juliet. You almost had me going there, Shakespeare. Romeo was a Montague, and you are a Coppens. Bradley Phoenix Coppens.