Dear Josie,You’re in my class.
Well, not really. Obviously, not really.
But there is a “Josephine” in my class this year. On the first day I called her name for attendance purposes, and she told me that she goes by Josie.
I remember a time last year, we were at a friend’s house for a barbeque, your older brother and I. There were several children there with their parents, many of whom we had never met. And there was a little girl around 4 or 5 in a purple dress and pigtails. Josie.
The kids were running around in the backyard. I was pretty early along in my pregnancy with Dominic, nauseous and exhausted and scared, and I remember hearing her mother as the night grew colder.
“Josie, here’s your sweater!”
And when the mustard was passed, “Josie, what do you say?”
And as the night progressed it was alright. I could handle it until someone wanted a picture.
“Josie, stand next to Frank.”
It’s something I will always, always miss. Your name. Being able to hear it without the pang. What a privilege it would be to say it one thousand times a day in all of the normal, mundane ways. Never having to think twice about how lucky I am to whisper it as you fall asleep on my shoulder. “Josie, I love you.” Or hurriedly, frustrated, in the rush out the door. “Josie where are your shoes?!”
“Yay, Josie!’ at graduation.
“Josie eat your peas,” and “Josie that’s too short.”
Your name will always be beautiful to me. There is an elegance to it. When I first heard the name Josephine as a child, I imagined someone writing it in calligraphy with a feather pen. Such beauty and such grace and yet, its shortened form offers an informality. An approachability. Josie, the lab partner. Josie the girl down the street. It’s why I fell in love with your older brother’s name. That complexity. There’s Francis, the smart kid in calculus perpetually adjusting his glasses, and then there’s Frankie. The boy sitting next to you in detention who makes you laugh ‘til you can’t breathe.Your little brother is named after you…well, kind of. Dominic Joseph. And I love it. I want people to know it. Always. That it’s not after either of his beloved grandfathers, and it’s not because I like the name Joseph. It’s not because of St. Joseph or Joseph-Gordon-Levitt or anyone other than you. His sister. Josephine.
I can’t wait to tell him about you. I don’t assume there are too many boys who can claim to be their older sister’s namesake, and I think that’s cool. I didn’t want his first name to be yours, too much pressure I suppose. I want him to be himself. His own person with his own identity, but forever linked to you too.
I love hearing your name in the outside world. It reminds me of what I’m missing, of course, and I’m certain it always will. But it’s also a reaffirmation of sorts. Shedding light on this perspective you have given to me so selflessly. The “big picture” that even now I lose sight of in the details. In all of the deadlines and the outtakes and the traffic, I hear it and it’s almost like you’re there. In the classroom or the neighbor’s backyard.
“Stop, mother,” you say. “Look, mother.”
And I do, sweet girl.
And I do.