Our son's full name is Harrison Ottley White. Let me tell you how we chose it.
After my 20-week pregnancy ultrasound showed we were expecting a son the search for names ensued. I had lists and lists of boy names which dwindled quickly because Jeremy applied his power of veto to most of them. From the get-go he was very much in favor of the name Harrison. It was a name he had always liked. I liked Harrison, too. It's a fine name. But as my womb grew to accommodate the boy kicking inside me, I kept coming back to a different one - the name Ottley.
During the year Jeremy and I met, began dating, got engaged, planned a wedding and got hitched I worked for two guys, both named Tim. Tim Cook and Tim Ottley. Most everyone referred to Tim Ottley as just Ottley, so I did as well. People had lots of different names for Tim Cook – tim, tc, tmc, mr. cook, bigness, mother f*cker – but I called him Cook. (that last one was a term of endearment used by one crazy-lady business associate from NYC. She spoke to me in the same loving manner, “What the f*ck, Mother F***er! Where the f*ck is that Mother F***er, Tim Cook?!” It always made my day to transfer her calls.) So I worked for Cook and Ottley.
A funny side note: Tim Cook had a daughter named Rachel, Tim Ottley had a wife named Rachel, and they both had an assistant named Rachel (that would be me). There were a lot of Tims and a lot of Rachels.
I loved both Cook and Ottley. I still do. They were great to work for, made me feel like part of their family, taught me so much (both professionally and personally) and opened my eyes to some wild and crazy things. Things like flying first class, shipping luggage via overnight FedEx because it was too much hassle to carry, being in charge of getting a band, crew and gear to NYC during a blizzard, being on a tour bus, being back stage, being the only non-naked female at a party. But those are stories for another time.
That was a special time for me because I was falling in love with my husband. But falling in love with him was all the more fun because I was so very happy with my life and felt fulfilled in my job. At work, during that year, Cook and Ottley left an impression on me. So it only makes sense that I would want to name my son after one of them!
What? Are you thinking that's kind of weird?
I suppose, looking back on it now, maybe you're right. But at the time I did not think it was odd at all. I just really, really liked the name Ottley! I was adamant about calling my son Ottley and no amount of veto power was going to remove it from my list. While Jeremy and I were still in name negotiations my girlfriends would ask which names we were considering and I made no qualms about replying,
“I really like the name Ottley”
“Where does that come from?”
“It's the last name of a friend I used to work with.”
Then the responses would vary...
“Oh. How nice.”
“Cute. You could call him O.”
It never crossed my mind to wonder what others might think of my choice. No one - not my friends, not my coworkers, not my husband, not my family – commented that it is unusual to name your son after “a guy I used to work with”. If they had any strange thoughts about it, they kept them quiet. Truthfully, if anyone had spoken up, it wouldn't have made a difference. It simply came down to this:
I had my heart set on calling my son Ottley.
I certainly didn't worry over how Tim Ottley's wife might react to the idea. (How terrible of me! Can I claim baby brain for my complete self-centeredness?) If I had taken the time to think about it I may have realized the slight awkwardness. Can you imagine Ottley saying to his wife, “Hey Honey, remember my old assistant? She wants to name her son after me.” Oh man! Putting myself in her shoes, if Jeremy came home and said that to me, I would definitely wonder what in the world had transpired between them to make her want to name her son after my husband! Is my husband worthy of that honor? Absolutely! But I would still question it! What wife wouldn't?
Was Tim Ottley worthy of having my son named after him? Without a doubt. He is a man who, for many reasons, is more than deserving of that honor! But, as it turns out, things aren't always as simple as having your “heart set” on something. What God showed me when I was lying in the dark that night is this: I didn't simply like the name Ottley and I didn't simply name my son after “the friend I used to work with”.
Harrison Ottley White was named with purpose. And he was named to honor someone else too.
Someone Harrison would need. Someone who would care about him enough to want the best for him, to be the best for him. Someone who would become our angel, sent to us in times of trouble. Someone who would show us the light.
God told me “this is why you named him Ottley” because he was reassuring me that all along, before Harrison was even born, he would hold our son dear. And all along, before Harrison was even born, he knew who our son would be and the difficulties he would face. And all along, before Harrison was even born, God had the perfect person in place to help him overcome his struggles. And all along, Harrison would share that person's name.
"This is why you named him Ottley...because it is Rachel Ottley (Tim's wife)...your lovely occupational therapist friend...whom I have perfectly gifted...before Harrison was even born...to help him and you through this hardship".
Even now I weep at God's amazing, incomprehensible, provision.
He is so gracious. He is so good. I am so thankful.