I don't have a middle name. Its absence hangs like an empty hammock between my first and last names. Tied low at the "y" in Stacey, it slopes gently upward to the highest part of Brose.
I always picture my lack of a middle name this way, as a stretch of empty space rather than nothing at all. This way, I never forget it isn't there.
For the first five days of my life, my baby bracelet proclaimed me "Baby Girl Brose." My mom, who had spent many years working as a public health nurse on Saskatchewan reserves, had adopted the First Nations belief that a premeditated name blights the baby.
Technically, parents have 15 days to name their child, but form-wielding ward clerks push to get it done before the mother is discharged. In the five days I spent in the hospital, my parents attempted the near-impossible: deciding on a name with a tight deadline looming. They plowed through baby books, pushed aside my brother's "helpful" suggestions of Marcie and Suzie, and finally decided on Stacey with not a minute to spare.
Since my parents struggled to choose my first name, it seems logical they left out a middle name because they had run out of time. Truth is, that's the one thing they had planned. The absence of a middle name carves its way through the generations in my family tree.
The tradition includes me and my mom and branches off to both her parents. From there, the maternal limb continues, skipping my great-grandma Sarah Kate. In the other direction, the tradition spreads to my mom's father and six of his eight siblings. I feel I'm part of an elite group - an anti-tradition tradition.
Second names are a trend, not a necessity. They add security and personality, but middle names are the place to honour someone, and if they're not meaningful I don't see the point in struggling to find one.
The Internet is littered with forums frequented by stressed-out mothers who have middle-name anxiety. They reach out to strangers with cries of, "Help! I want to call my son Leonard but can't think of a middle name that flows!" The names suggested by other stressed-out mothers are often ridiculous, such as Moonbeam or Sorrow.
Some overzealous parents go a wee bit overboard. Last year, a British couple named their daughter after 25 boxing champions: Autumn Sullivan Corbett Fitzsimmons Jeffries Hart Burns Johnson Willard Dempsey Tunney Schmeling Sharkey Carnera Baer Braddock Louis Charles Walcott Marciano Patterson Johansson Liston Clay Frazier Foreman Brown.
Thanks to people like Autumn Brown's mother and Moon Unit Zappa's father, I count myself lucky not to have a middle name. My initials will never spell SOB, I'll never have to admit my name is Stacey Helgabeth, and when my parents say my full name they don't sound angry.
It's one less name for someone to mispronounce, and I'll never be in the embarrassing situation in which my second name switches gender later in my life (I'm looking at you, Gordon Meredith Lightfoot). I also enjoy watching nurses become flustered when they see that my Saskatchewan health card is made out to "Stacey Brose Brose." Apparently it made more sense to clone my last name than to leave a little space.
While it's nifty to be an anomaly, there are times when I feel I'm missing out. There's an air of mystery surrounding middle names, and a certain satisfaction when you figure out what someone's initial stands for, especially when it's a beast of a name like Morag or Egbert.
Not having a middle name has made me curious about other people's names. Recently I was staring at my bookshelf when the "k" in J. K. Rowling started to bug me. The back flap told me the initials stood for Joanne Kathleen, but something didn't feel right. After some online snooping, I learned she doesn't have a middle name. Her publishers wanted a two-initial, gender-neutral moniker, so she swiped her Grandma's name to become J.K.
Ms. Rowling's publishers had a point. The authors with the catchiest names are the ones with initials: C. S. Lewis, H. G. Wells, J. D. Salinger, J. R. R. Tolkien. So even if Ms. Rowling is a name sellout, I admit she sounds cool. Just using a middle initial makes a name seem distinguished and important, like Michael J. Fox or Harry S Truman. And when I dream that Paul Simon is crooning to me about Julio and schoolyards, my sighs of joy always go, "Oh, Paul Frederic." Middle names have such sex appeal.
Unlike Ms. Rowling, though, I could never acquire a middle initial. My middle space was given to me by my mother, and to fill it in with a name would dismantle the unique bond we share - a bond I hope to have with my children one day.
When I have a child, the days following his or her birth will not be unlike my own: armfuls of baby-name books, days of deliberation, anxious ward clerks. I'll tuck my child into the traditional First Nations moss bag in which my mother brought me home. And when I lace the beaded blue velvet snugly against the baby's body with leather ties and head for the hospital exit, I'll know the middle space is the best name of all.
Stacey Brose lives in Victoria.