September 21 is St. Matthew's feast day on the Catholic Church's calendar. In the old Latvian tradition, it's my son's "Name Day," a very important day of the year.
Although the Gospel of St. Matthew is my favorite, Matt wasn't named for it. I chose Matt's name when I was twelve years old, after reading Anne of Green Gables and seeing my favorite supporting character, Matthew Cuthbert, dispatched in the closing chapters. Awash in tears and hiccuping sobs, I vowed that "If I ever have a son, his name is going to be Matthew!"
When the time came, convincing my husband of the need for the name Matthew was going to be tricky, I realized. No man is going to relish the idea of his firstborn son being named after anything pertaining to a sentimental young girl's book. So when the time came to choose names when I was expecting our daughter, I casually floated the idea: "What about Matthew?"
Pete thought about this for a few suspenseful moments. "Matt," he mused. "Like Matt Dillon, on Gunsmoke?" He was associating the name with one of our generation's most popular and long-running TV shows. "Yes!" I grabbed the lifeline and held my breath for another endless moment. "Yeah, Matt. That's a cool name." Sold!
Kristine was born first, and another five years passed before Matt came along to claim his name. It was at least five more years before I told Pete the full story of Matt's name. He didn't seem to mind, but by then we had been married a while. As most husbands would attest, a certain numbness to wifely antics takes over at some indefinable point in marriage. Besides, what could he say, really? He had liked the name as much as I did.
Matthew, from Hebrew, meaning "Gift of God." Named for an endearing fictional character, which happens to be the name of the great evangelist saint commemorated today. Happy Name Day, Matt.