The Gift of Names

J.L. Weinmeister

Our final night at sea has arrived. I have one last story to tell you about the bima while here on Kareena. While I have told you much about their history, there is still much you don’t know about their culture. Tonight, I’m sharing one of my favorite bima stories.

* * * * *

Once I met a bima woman who told me the story of her cousin, who lived most of her life in an existential crisis.

“I remember the day she was born,” the bima woman told me. “I was young, twelve-years-old. While I had witnessed the birth of three of my siblings, this was the first time one of my parents’ siblings had had a child. My family and my aunt and uncle’s friends gathered together to celebrate my cousin’s birth. She was given many gifts, mostly toys made of woven plant fibers. I remember having things like that when I was young, but I had since lost them. The ocean currents are good at stealing personal belongings.

“After my cousin received her gifts—she slept through most of it—we attended a great feast hosted by my aunt and uncle. My father and uncles had hunted a zoosh for us to eat. After we ate, we gathered around my cousin and sang to her.”

Since you have not yet met the bima, you don’t know how intoxicating their songs are. Their music is eerie, yet you can’t help but listen. Newborns are enthralled by the music, and they feel the love of their family and friends.

“My grandmother,” the bima woman continued, “was the eldest at a hundred seventeen years old. She took my cousin in her arms and looked deep into her eyes. She would have to determine my cousin’s first name. First names are usually that of a plant or animal in the hope the child will take on the traits of that living thing. Zanpone is a name of strength. Gilleti is one of grace. Kassandren honors teamwork. Aferra is given for beauty. My grandmother named her Loolerain in the hope my cousin would have strong social skills.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth. Loolerain was shy and didn’t like interacting with other bima, not even her family. As much as my siblings and I tried to befriend her, she ignored us. As kids, we spent most of our time on beaches where we wouldn’t have to swim all the time. Loolerain always sat apart from everyone else, lumping wet sand into various shapes and placing seashells on it.

“When Loolerain was old enough to learn adult activities, she did so silently, copying the adults with ease. Once she learned everything, she would go off on her own and work on whatever task she had for the day.

“Once she had seen thirty solar years, she went on her quest like all the other bima when they’re ready for adulthood. She successfully hunted a losinoid, and her family feasted on its body. Her great uncle was now the eldest member of her family, so he had the honor of giving her her second name. He chose Feandra, the name of a large marine mammal who lives alone except when mating and caring for offspring.

“Despite her shyness, Feandra showed a proclivity for singing. When she was a child, no one paid her much mind; but now as an adult, they noticed she frequently swam away and sat atop a rocky outcrop where she would sing softly to herself. The young men were captivated by her voice, and they began to court her.

“Feandra didn’t know how to handle all of the attention, but she adapted. Soon she was constantly surrounded by bima, friends and suitors alike. Over several years, one of the suitors grew closer to her than any other; and they married.

“The wedding was one of the largest ever seen in our corner of the ocean. Almost everyone was invited, and we sang and danced after a massive feast. Once again, Feandra had failed to live up to her name. The night before, she confessed to me that she was worried her third name would also be unsuitable for her.

“Her great uncle was still the eldest member of her family; so he chose her third name during the wedding ceremony, while her husband’s grandfather chose his. My cousin was now named Taelubree after a shelled creature who was skilled at courting. This name worried her because taelubree abandon their young while they’re still in the egg. She didn’t want to be a poor parent, and she feared her name would make her one.

“Her fear kept her from having children for several years, but she finally had a daughter. Her father was now her eldest family member, and she hoped he would give her a better fourth name since it was the final name she would receive while living. She also hoped her daughter’s first name would be more accurate than her own had been.

“My cousin became Kassandren after her now-social nature, and her daughter was named Gilleti for grace. Kassendrens are known for being good parents, and they let their children exercise independence from a young age. My cousin was too overprotective, rarely letting Gilleti out of her sight. Her daughter was indeed a graceful child, but Kassandren constantly feared something would happen to her because she lacked strength. She wished her father had given her a stronger name.

“Kassandren raised her only child to adulthood; and after that, she returned to thinking about names and how hers have always failed to describe her. It wasn’t until she was old enough to give names herself that she finally realized what they signified.

“Kassandren had always believed names dictated one’s personality, but they don’t. The reason bima have so many names is because their personalities are constantly changing. The names symbolize the growth and change each bima experiences in their lifetime.

“When Kassandren was on her deathbed, I was her eldest living relative. It was my duty to give her her fifth and final name. So I named her Asandi after the marine creatures who build the beautiful reefs we inhabit to symbolize the significant growth she attained in her lifetime.”

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