I naturally gravitate toward the letter L. The sound is delicate, lightsome and lyrical. Paired with harder-sounding consonants, the contrast results in some powerful words. Live. Light. Love.
I wanted my first child's name to have a musical quality to it. I spent my own childhood crafting poems and songs to perform for my stuffed animals. Dad says I was humming along to hymns at mass before I was even properly talking. I thought of legato Italian names like my own. I was named Gaetana in memory of my dad's mother. The name originates from the town of Gaeta, Italy, but I prefer the more romantic translation—"a little gypsy."
Then, inspiration struck. I thought of The Sound of Music, a film I'd grown up on and still love to this day. I always related to Liesl, the eldest daughter of the Von Trapp family. In one of my favorite scenes, she screams in joy in the rain after receiving her first kiss from the messenger boy.
My husband and I ultimately fell in love with the name Leizel, a Filipino twist on the name meaning "God's oath." Leizel is pronounced with emphasis on its second syllable (Lee-ZELL). The Z is soft and unexpected, and the L at the end playfully rolls off the tongue.
It's strange how a name takes on new meaning from its bearer. I remember singing to Leizel when she was still just a growing bump. While I knew I'd soon be a mother, it felt like I was singing only to the idea of her—like humming a lullaby to some beautiful dream.
Now, she is more real to me than anything I've ever known. I hold her in my arms. I watch her grow. I sing to her, and her brown eyes widen with wonder. Her mouth parts into a pretty smile, and squeals of laughter escape her lips. Each day, there is a new little miracle, a captured moment to hold close to my heart.
My husband was away on a fishing trip during Leizel's 4-month birthday, so I decided to send him a video of her playing on her belly. As I was recording, she unexpectedly rolled over for the first time. I'm sure she was unaware that this was some tremendous milestone.
For me, it was a proud and miraculous moment. For her, it was just some fun new thing she discovered she could do. She's recently found new ways to lose her socks. When she was younger, she'd kick them off. Now, she pulls them off with her hands or sometimes, raises up her dimpled legs to bite them straight off her feet.
She continues to look exactly like her father and has even taken on some of his habits. She's started sleeping with her hands behind her head, elbows pointed out—just like Dad. My husband is a hunter, and I often tease him for his wolf-like reflexes as he suddenly freezes to focus on some distant sound. Now, Leizel is growing more attentive to sounds and movements. She has her father's beautifully pointed ears, perfectly sculpted for capturing sound.
She listens intently as I sing to her the same songs my mother sang to me. Sometimes, I simply sing her name to different rhymes and melodies: "Leizel, my belle, I love you so. I'll hold and keep you as you grow."
I can't stop singing. There's just so much music in her name.