Our youngest child is named “Carlton Fulghum Wallace.”
Naming our third born was the toughest. Unlike with our second-born, Harris, we were able to find out he would be a boy at 20 weeks into the pregnancy. We considered the family names still available to us that we liked, and we kept returning to “John,” Carla’s father’s brother, and “Carl,” an obvious connection to “Carla” and her father, “Lanny Carl.”
For a while it looked like we would go with “John Carlton Wallace,” but we had a friend in the neighborhood named “John” with the last name “Carlton.” The coincidence was too weird for us to seriously commit to that name. We didn’t want friends who knew us both to keep asking him and us about any connections. (For the record, John Carlton is a standup guy who we really like!)
Carla’s mother always had a close relationship with her Granny Fulghum. Mama credits her with keeping her alive when she was born prematurely, and their bond was strong throughout Granny Fulghum’s life. Although “Fulghum” is an unusual name, we wanted to honor Carla’s mother’s connection to her grandmother without subjecting our child to a lifetime of ridicule. Using “Fulghum” as the middle name seemed like the best solution.
That left us with the first name to puzzle over for the remainder of the pregnancy and even after his birth. The morning he arrived, our indecision left him officially nameless for several hours. It was a strange afternoon of our parents asking us what we were going to call him while we couldn’t decide among “John,” “Carl,” and “Carlton.” It was Carla’s daddy who gave us the space to settle on a name.
“Whatever you call him, it won’t take long before that will be his name, and you can’t imagine calling him anything else.”
Lanny was right, and Carlton has been as unique as his family-derived name. At first he didn’t like that people made the association with “Carlton the Doorman” from the TV show “Rhoda” or Will Smith’s cousin on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” He eventually embraced Carlton’s signature dance move from that show, appropriately called “The Carlton” as a way to cope with the frequent comparison. If you watched his latest performance as the genie in “Aladdin” at Smoke Rise Academy of Arts, you may have even seen “The Carlton” sneak into his choreography.
Now that he’s turning 14, Carlton is figuring out how to use his considerable creative gifts. Whatever he chooses to do, he embodies the name so fully that all the other Carltons take a backseat to him. He’s charting his own course.
And who knows, maybe a dance will be called “The Carlton” as a tribute to him.