Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Feast Day of St. Helena

Our youngest little angel with the crooked halo has a very special name, Helena Caroline Christ.  Both of our girls actually have a lot of meaning behind both their first and middle names.  I hope to have as much input for confirmation names in the future, but we'll see.

When we were expecting said little angel, we had a long list of names to haggle over and haggle we did.  We agreed we wanted another family name and we agreed that my much-loved sister's name had to be included in some form.  We got a list together of grandmothers, great-grandmothers, their mothers, aunts, etc., and started to sort it all out.

The decision making then turned relatively easy as one name kept coming up over and over.

I never had the blessing of knowing most of my grandparents, just my mom's mom. The rest had either passed away before I was born or weren't on speaking terms with my parents or my parents with them - you know how it gets with families.  My husband however, fortunately, knew and spent time with all of his grandparents on both sides and even great-grandparents!  His grandfather, "Pop" is still with us at the sprightly age of 92.  Paul Winifred Christ lives on his own in the same house he's lived in most of his life.  Pop has been a widower for over 20 years.  This bachelor lifestyle has probably contributed to the orneriness often seen in people who are blessed to live so long.  The orneriness though is quite refreshing at times and is oftentimes perfectly delightful to have his unfiltered honesty at holiday dinners and birthday parties.  Pop (a.k.a. "Pater"), is one of seven children.  The rest of the Christ Clan was made up of Uncle Bill ("Peach"), Uncle Woodward ("Woody"), Uncle Norman ("Nook"), Uncle Clarence ("Tiny"), and Aunt Ferne.  Ferne never got a nickname - I suppose being the only female was moniker enough.  Their other sibling, Howard, died at the tender age of 2 so he hadn't lived long enough to get a nickname.  Pop is currently the last man standing having lost Aunt Ferne earlier this year.

All of these children were raised by one tough cookie of a woman named Helen Reber.  She dropped the Christ surname after kicking her no-good husband to the curb.  This was unheard of in her day and I can't imagine the backlash and whispers behind her back she must have endured.  However, Great-Great-Grandmother Helen raised her brood in a tiny little house in Laureldale that I think still stands today.  To heat the house, she would send Pop and his siblings to collect coal that fell from the trains that went by.  The stories of  "Grammy" are many and a wistful look always comes over the person or persons recalling them.  At the time that Ms. Reber was raising her family, prohibition was making it very difficult for a lot of people to self-medicate their way through the depression.  But, Ms. Reber had a solution for all parties involved.  She ran a distillery in her little home and used the money to raise her family.  I have a feeling this woman was tough as nails and tender hearted at the same time.  She knew what had to be done, so she did it.  As the legend goes, the fuzz got wind of her operation and Pop and his siblings had to dismantle the distillery and throw it in the river one night.

Having heard her story a lot of times since moving to this side of the Keystone State, I was on board with naming our precious little baby girl after this woman, Helen, who was years ahead of her time.  I have a feeling she didn't take crap from anyone, but obviously she loved her children in all the right ways and did her best with what God had given her.  Helen was a name I could get behind.  And, any woman who knows how to build a contraption that makes liquor - in your living room - is a woman I can love for sure.

Today, August 18th, I've discovered, is the Feast Day of St. Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great and finder of the True Cross of Jesus Christ.  I'm sure I looked some of this up when we decided upon this derivative of the name Helen, but today I'm finding it all the more meaningful. 

"At the age of 80, Helena led a group to the Holy Land to search for the True Cross. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she discovered the True Cross. She built a church on the spot where the True Cross was found. The Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14 celebrates the event. Thus in art, she is usually depicted holding a wooden cross."

I'm even happier today with our choice of names for our little pixie.  She has a nickname too, around here she is known as "Gummi-Bear."  She has proven herself already worthy of such a strong and well-storied name.  I can't wait to see what she becomes in life.  In a few weeks, we'll be attending a much-anticipated, long overdue Christ family reunion.  I'm excited for the girls to meet their extended family members.  I'm excited for our little Helena to meet all of the relatives who are here today because of St. Helen of Laureldale, Patron Saint of Making The Best With What You've Got.

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