I recently came across a remarkable thing: A file folder full of letters that my mother wrote to her parents during and after her time in college.
I'm guessing my cousins must have given this to us years ago, and the file folder appears to be labeled in my handwriting so I must have seen it before. But I had forgotten they existed, so I was really pleased when I happened across the folder the other week.
Just now, I was idly paging through some of them, and it occurred to me to see whether there was one talking about meeting my father. The story that I had always thought was the story of how my parents met (one of my all-time favorite meeting-a-future-spouse stories) turns out to have actually been the story of how my father met his first wife, and it turns out that nobody in the family knows how my parents met.
Unfortunately, this archive doesn't include that story. There's a letter from May 1966, during her last quarter on campus, and then the next item is a postcard signed by both of my parents from July 1967, by which point (though she doesn't say this, and may not have known) she may've already been pregnant. So the key period is missing. (As it were.)
However, as a consolation prize for me, there's a letter from a week after I was born, in which she gives details that I hadn't known about my middle name (I've corrected a couple of typos in this):
As for names---it was very strange that you settled on Elizabeth...I was always kind of awed by your mother, from the one picture I saw of her, she was so stately and beautiful.....but the weird part is that there had been a name in Peter's head for a couple of weeks, that we had decided might be a good middle name anyway, and we couldn't figure out where it had come from--now we realize you and he read each other's minds over time and space--so Jed's full name is Jedediah Elysdir Hartman.
(Had you decided to stick with wanting to name him after "Grandpop Harry Sax" (which is what I used to think of him as, I remember) we would have spelled it Hare, which is the first part of a beautiful Indian prayer, which simply says
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Hare Hare, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Hare Hare, Hare Hare
and is repeated over and over---Krishna and Rama are two names for manifestations of the same deity, Hare (pronounced Hahray) probably means Hail, or something...
So if my grandparents had pushed for me to be named after my grandmother's father, then I would've ended up being named Hare Hartman, and would've been told that my name meant “Hail, or something” until someone who knew better explained it to me.
In case anyone's wondering, here's what Wikipedia says:
“Hare” can be interpreted as either the vocative of Hari, another name of Vishnu meaning “he who removes illusion”, or as the vocative of Harā, a name of Rādhā, Krishna's eternal consort...
Anyway, my key point here is that the story I'd always been told, that “Elysdir” was an attempt to name me after a relative named Elizabeth, was apparently only sorta true; sounds like first they came up with the name, then they rationalized it as being connected to Elizabeth. Or maybe I'm being too skeptical and my father really did read his in-laws' minds from across the country. I have no firm evidence to the contrary.
I wish I could round out this entry with a photo of my great-grandmother Elizabeth, but the only photos I have that might be of her are unlabeled and undated and could easily be someone else entirely.
At some point, I hope to digitize the whole set of letters from my mother, but that's likely to take a while, so I figured I'd post just this bit for now.
Facebook post (with comments).