I still can’t believe Harvey already has two Christmases under his belt. The time with him as a baby flew by even faster than it did with Dessa, and now he’s a full-fledged toddler walking all over the house. It was a wild first year for Harvey, what with the pandemic and political cauldron that our country is right now. But despite all that, most of our families and good friends have gotten to meet Harvey. And every time Harvey meets someone new, we get the same question: What’s the story behind Harvey’s name? Well, let me tell you.
When we selected Dessa’s name, it was much more of a production than it was for choosing our second child’s name. Back then, we had a big board with a whole bunch of names that we prioritized and whittled down over the course of several months. This time around, we discussed it for a few weeks, but we pretty quickly honed in on only two names, one for each gender. Harvey, obviously, was our boy name of choice. But where did it come from?
Meet my maternal grandfather, Harvey Leonard Spitzer. Today would have been his 96th birthday.
You may recall that we named Dessa after Maria’s grandmother Odessa, so we’ve clearly stuck with a theme here. The name Harvey wasn’t one that we considered when we brainstormed baby names before Dessa was born and wasn’t one that I initially considered this time around either. Maria suggested the name because she loves the meaning behind Dessa’s name and wanted our second child to have a name that was equally special and carried a lot of personal significance, rather than a random name picked out of a baby name book. We spent weeks thinking it over and trying to imagine a son named Harvey. The more we both thought about it, the more we liked it. It’s a name that everyone knows, but is still quite uncommon. After a while, Harvey just felt like the perfect name if our second child was a boy.
Let me tell you a little about my Papa, as we called my grandpa in my family. He died when I was in seventh grade, likely because he smoked pipes his entire life (though it could also have been asbestos exposure from his time in the Navy). Since I was so young when Papa passed away, my memories of him are somewhat hazy. I remember his smell: pipe tobacco, Old Spice, and machine oil from the machine shop he worked in and the metal lathe he had in his basement. One of my most distinct memories of him is showing him my brand-new K’Nex set after Christmas when my mom and grandma went post-Christmas sale shopping. Other than that, I mostly remember the feel of him, the sound of his voice, and that I adored him.
In college, I got a job at the University of Michigan Chemistry Instrument Shop, a machine shop that fabricated specialty items for chemistry research labs. My time working in that machine shop was the closest I felt to him since his passing. Papa was a lathe operator in a machine shop for most of his life, so when I worked a lathe or an end mill in the Instrument Shop, I felt like I was following in his footsteps. Plus, the oil smell that permeated the shop reminded me of him, too.
Besides being a machinist, he served in the Navy’s Construction Battalions, also known as the Seabees, during World War II. He worked on construction projects throughout the Pacific Theater, including Attu Island, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Once the war was over, he married my grandma and they started their family. When I was growing up, my siblings and I spent a ton of time at my grandparents’ and we adored them, especially Papa. I loved watching him work on his lathe and playing with the spiraled aluminum shavings. I loved pretending that I was smoking a pipe, just like him. I loved helping him with wood burning and wood carving, two hobbies he got into during his retirement. And I hated watching his decline as he slowly lost the ability to breathe.
I have been a very blessed man. My family has experienced very little in the way of loss and we have been blessed with good health, good finances, and good fortune. Papa’s death is the first loss I ever experienced, which is why I think it looms so large in my life. Because of that, I am very grateful that I was able to name my son after him. Happy Birthday, Papa.
As you might imagine, Harvey’s middle name, James, is special to us, as well. Harvey’s first name came from my side of the family, so Maria and I wanted him to also have a special tie to her family. So we took Harvey James’ middle name from Maria’s dad, Jim.
Jim has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know and he will go out of his way to help anyone, even near strangers. He also is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. Maria wrote Jim a wonderful tribute on Kinder Craze back in 2013, which you can check out if you’d like to know more about him. I can’t write it any better than she can. And that’s why I’m proud to give that same name to my son, too.
We have pieces of both families in our son’s name and we are so happy to honor my Papa, Maria’s dad, and our son with the name Harvey James.
And if Harvey had been a girl? We would have named her Beatrice, in honor of my grandmother (Harvey’s wife) and our children’s only living great-grandparent. That’s her in the wedding dress way at the top of this post. As you might imagine, Great Grandma Beatrice has been pretty smitten with the newest addition to her family right since the start.