What’s in a Name?

Our names are a huge part of our identity. They hold profound personal, familial, and cultural connection. We put in considerable thought into finding the perfect names for our children. Many look for names that express positive attributes they wish for their children to have. Others name their children in honor of loved ones that have passed away. Still others choose to name their children after things, events or places that hold deep meaning to them. Names matter. Every name has a meaning and story, and this is mine.

My name is Maria Joy.

Joy (Latin): delight, happiness, great joy.

In a year when female feticide was rampant in India, I was named Joy because I was a girl. I love the name Joy. For starters, it tells me that I am loved, treasured, and was longed for. Joy is a huge part of my identity. Joy is one of the first words people associate with me. My closest friends often call me Joy. For someone who has been described as ‘liquid sunshine’; it does well at describing who I am. Joy has always made sense. I absolutely love being called Joy.

Maria (Scandinavian): bittersweet.

Now, Maria is a little, well, bleh. It’s one of the most common names across languages. Every other song is about a Maria. Nothing exotic, nothing unique. I’ve never really connected with it. I mean, who calls their child bittersweet? I thought you said I was Joy!

Bittersweet (adjective):
both sweet and bitter to taste, both pleasant and painful.

As I became a mother last year, I slowly found deeper meaning to my name.

Without a doubt, foster care has been our best ‘yes’. Our foster children have made all the difference in our lives. But it’s been so hard on all the hearts involved in our journey. We held our boy through the nights he cried, we held him through the visits to the hospital. But we also grinned as he learned to eat his veggies. We sang together, and talked about love, languages, penguins, and dinosaurs. Every T-rex in his coloring book was “Paw” (Thai for father). All the other dinosaurs were given pink nails and were called “Mae Taato” (Mama Big Eyes). He’d then draw a baby dinosaur on my dinosaur back or under me and write his name beside it. An absolute joy, he made us parents!

Before he moved in, I got our son’s room ready. But I also had to sort through his things and pack his bags as he left. Guessing sizes and interests, I shopped for clothes, toys, and shoes before he came home. I also shopped for his favorite things to send with him as he left. I watched him play on the jungle gym in our neighborhood on our evening walks together. I watch those memories play like clear visions every single time we walk past the jungle gym now.

Our baby girl (still with us at the time I write this), fills our day with smiles and laughter. But as I cradle her to sleep at night, I find myself holding on a little longer knowing that our time together is fleeting. Each day that we fill with cuddles, kisses and memories is always one day closer to saying goodbye. We fall deeper in love certain that the overwhelming joy is shadowed by the devastating grief of separation. But if we didn’t sign up for the heartache, we would’ve never had the joy of knowing them and would have missed out on the privilege of loving them through the in-betweens in their stories. Yes, bittersweet!

It makes complete sense now, doesn’t it? My name ‘Maria’ is the single most accurate word to describe my life and the family we have built together- Bittersweet. But my name also reassures me that the Bittersweet is always accompanied with Joy!

Thank you, mama, and daddy.

All my love,
Maria Joy

4 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Blessed. In Tears of Joy for the Joy that filles our hearts and lives. With you as you journey on as Foster parents and allowing us some very wonderful and lovely moments with our little kids beyond the seven seas. Every connect delights our hearts and you truly have filled the little children’s lives with so much love and affection. We pray every day for you as parents.Stay blessed Maria.

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