“Your baby, she very, very nice,” said Marisol with a huge smile that lit up her face. I’d just come home from the hospital with our precious bundle, our first girl after three boys, and I was thrilled that my cleaning lady had shown up on time. I wanted the linens stripped, the counters scrubbed and the baby’s crib freshened up. There was a pile of dishes in the sink and a greasy spill in the oven. Marisol certainly had her work cut out for her. But first she was making googly eyes at my little princess.
“Cute, no?” I prodded, stroking her chubby cheek. Marisol smiled and nodded.
“What her name?” she pressed on.
“Shoshana. It means a rose in our language. A flower,” I explained, hoping she understood.
But what followed practically blew me away. Marisol turned on her phone and showed me a picture of a little Hispanic girl who appeared to be about ten years old.
“She my baby,” Marisol said, pointing at the screen. “Her name also Shoshana.”
“How sweet! Wait a minute—what did you say?”
“Her name Shoshana. Like your baby. Two Shoshana. Here,” she pointed to her phone, “and here.” She patted the baby’s fuzzy blanket.
“You’re not serious, are you?” I asked, wondering if this was her idea of a joke.
“Shoshana is a Jewish name. You come from Guatemala, yes? Not Jewish.”
“No Jewish,” she assured me with a laugh.
On second thought, maybe she was descended from conversos. Maybe someone in her family had been Jewish and was named Shoshana.
“Tell me, Marisol. Where did your grandmother come from before Guatemala?”
“Spain? Or Portugal?”
But Marisol had lost interest. She was busy cooing over the baby. “Shoshana. Very linda (cute). My baby also very linda.”
“Who is she named after?” I pressed on. Was there a bubby somewhere who had lit Shabbos candles generations ago? Did we need to invite Marisol over for a Shabbos meal? Would she bring her husband and children? Maybe we could reconnect them to their roots.
“Her name? Shoshana,” Marisol confirmed. “My husband, he say this very nice name.”
“Why? Who was named Shoshana?” I asked, but I knew she didn’t understand what I meant.
Then another idea occurred to me. Marisol’s English language skills left much to be desired. Maybe I’d misunderstood her, and her daughter wasn’t named Shoshana after all.
“What do you call your daughter?” I asked once more.