top of page


I have always been fascinated with the meanings of words, especially names. I believe that those meanings do affect you, maybe in ways that you don't realize on the surface. And I also believe that knowing as much as you can about yourself and your history in all of the ways that are available to you can help you write the story of your life in a way that you remain the hero and the main character.


So here are the meanings of our surnames, which may help you understand in a different way who we are.


My mother was a LaChance, and she married a Smith. LaChance is French for "the lucky one." Family legend has it that an ancestor made himself unwelcome in France and was forcefully encouraged to emigrate by boat to the New World or to hell, whichever he reached first. He landed alive in what would become Canada and took the name LaChance to signify that he realized his good fortune. (I also hope that he turned over a new leaf and resolved to live in a way that was worthy of his second chance.)


Smith is pretty obvious. There are so many of us in the world, maybe because we were so necessary for so long. Blacksmiths worked with iron and steel, which everyone needed for nails and horse equipment and hinges and tools and a thousand other things vital to farming and construction. Goldsmiths made lumps of ore into jewelry and ornaments and coins. We were makers and shapers, people who saw potential in raw lumps of stuff and made what was formless useful.


I see myself in both my family stories. I am a hard worker who sees shapes and plots and meaning in the world around me. I make sense of what is chaotic. I bring order and form to what is meaningless or unclear.


At the same time, I am the lucky one. In some ways, I am adrift on the sea of fate, and I do not control what life brings me. In my birth and my childhood and my life so far, I am lucky in the course fate has set me.


Has my life been totally happy and trouble-free? No. I've endured two C-sections. I've gone 16 months with no income. My family tree has its share of nuts. I've fallen prey to some unscrupulous religious figures.


But over all, I'm lucky. The fates have been good to me. The universe has given me good gifts. God has smiled on me. I hope I prove worthy of the gifts.


Robbie's mother was a Wilder, and she married a Grayson. Wilder is Anglo-Saxon, and it carries the idea of great, untamed strength. A person who identified as a Wilder back in the misty past was practically shouting that he was as unpredictable, unbiddable, powerful, and proud as a wild boar or a wild hawk. It's a tribal name, a name a Danish or German invader would have claimed to assure his allies and warn his enemies.


Grayson, on the other hand, is a civilized name. It means "the son of a greve," which is a person you can understand as a bailiff or a steward. A Grayson had inherited responsibility for land and the people on it. He collected rents, kept the peace, made sure the people around him did their duty, and knocked heads when he had to do it.  He was a manager, an enforcer, and a law-keeper. His role smacked of productivity and order.


So here you have a Smith and a Grayson, someone who brings order to raw materials and someone who brings order to human beings. There is a powerful undercurrent of direction and creation and shaping within the union of those two names.


And the mothers' names - Wilder and LaChance - both whisper of the primal side: strength and luck. No one can contain or control those forces. But to claim those names for your own speaks of daring and optimism and proper pride in your abilities and opportunities.


What I see in our names is that our family stands with our hands outstretched to the world, taking the good fortune that comes to us and trusting to our skill and strength to make something extraordinary of it. We are like reverse tornadoes, leaving structure and beauty in our wake.

bottom of page