Ella Roque Nelson, a quarter-Cuban, part-Irish St. Paddy’s Day Baby

March 19, 2012

Ella & her Papa

When Meredith and I learned that the baby she was carrying was a girl, she started suggesting first names. She would say a name and I would react immediately as to whether I would like it or not, totally intuitive. One of the names she suggested was Lola and I laughed. My friends in Chicago would never let me hear the end of it if I named my daughter after a transsexual in a Kinks song. When she said Ella, I stopped and said Yes. Jazz has been a huge part of my life and I had played Ella Fitzgerald many times on the air over the years. Mom reminded me it means her or she in Spanish.

For a middle name, we had settled on Roque for a boy and felt it worked just as well for a girl.  Its taken from my mother’s maiden name. When my cousin Cuchi heard we had chosen Roque as a middle name, she was upset, saying she did not think we should name the baby after the S.O.B. Teofilo Roque, my Great Grandmother (Adelina’s) first husband.  Once, he had warned his children not to eat any of his bananas (platanitos) but Charito (one of my mother’s aunts) ate one of them and he got upset and made her eat the whole bunch. One day he “sold” his two daughters (Anarda and Charito) to a family in another town.  They spent the day, one cleaning house and the other making bricks out of clay!  They were rescued by my Great Grandmother, a rural school teacher, as soon as she got back to Holguin, their home town.

Buffy Sedlachek, Mer’s Mom, recognized something about the name we chose and was compelled to revisit the family archives. She found the old newspaper article of the story of her Grandmother who, to protect a five-year-old Buffy from a careening bus full of Boy Scouts, put her body over Buffy’s and sacrificed her life for Buffy’s. This heroic woman’s name was Mary Ella Caughey. A woman of Irish heritage, she was a descendent of Daniel Boone.

And now here we are at Ballard Swedish, with some of the most caring and dedicated nurses I have ever met. Lila was with us before, during after the c-section and even enjoyed a slice of deep-dish pizza I bought yesterday, the first day Meredith could eat real food again after her surgery. And I could tell you stories of being in the room for the c-section. My heart goes out to my ex-wife Janice Berk Nelson for enduring that 20 years and ten months ago when giving birth to our beloved Rebecca Rose Nelson.

I have already written two haibun for Ella before she was born and one Stellar: (Ella) is linked here, though WordPress has not created a system that can perfectly implement poetry linebreaks. It is based on the ultrasound image which is also reproduced at that link, along with the sound of me reading the poem. I have yet to create a sort of credits roll that would capture perfect linebreaks and sound of me reading and preparing for Ella and now, staying up in the middle of the night changing her diaper (for the third time in the last few hours) has not allowed me time to go to the Apple Store to get a tutorial in I-Movie, which may do the trick.

Ella was born at 4:27p in Ballard (Seattle), Washington at 8 pounds, 2 oz, 20 inches long with a 14 inch head circumference on Saturday, March 17, 2012, St. Patrick’s Day. Once baby and Mom were recovering in the hospital room, I went out for Guinness and Guinness stew at Kelly O’Brien’s. We resisted the urge to name her Ella O’Roque Nelson. She met her big Sister Rebecca and Grandmother Buffy today. Mer is waiting for her milk to come in. My Brother Andrew Glenn Nelson called to say, in a perfect Chicago accent:  She looks two years old! The 600 or so Jazz songs on my I-pod have repeated about three times now and I am wondering why I did not put more Keith Jarrett on there, but am enjoying the Charlie Christian with the Benny Goodman Septet as I write.

Ella Roque Nelson, 1 day old

The Rune I drew yesterday was Raido, which is about a Journey, Communication and Union/Reunion. The notion of reunion resonated with me, thinking I’d surely met this soul before and wondering what she had to teach me this time around. We’re grateful to the hundreds of Facebook friends who have wished us well and commented on her photograph there, the one I have inserted there above on the right.

3:14A – 3.19.12

Swedish Ballard

3.18.12 – The day after Ella’s birth, a flattened green plastic hat lies on Pike.

& Chuck Pirtle was kind enough to send this:

From George Oppen, for another girl-child:

Sara in Her Father’s Arms

Cell by cell the baby made herself, the cells
Made cells. That is to say
The baby is made largely of milk. Lying in her father’s arms, the little seed eyes
Moving, trying to see, smiling for us
To see, she will make a household
To her need of these rooms–Sara, little seed,
Little violent, diligent seed. Come let us look at the world
Glittering: this seed will speak,
Max, words! There will be no other words in the world
But those our children speak. What will she make of a world
Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

–from The Materials, 1962



  1. Sjarifuddin Harris


    Congratulations may she live a blessed life with you two.


  2. Sjarifuddin Harris

    WOW What a beauty, may you all live a blessed life together


    • Splabman

      Thank you so much my Subud Brother. Paul

  3. Linda Crosfield

    Lovely story of how Ella’s name came to be. And yes, she’ll teach you a thing or two, I’m sure! Best to all three of you, always.

  4. Rifka Several

    What a gorgeous daughter, Paul! So glad to hear more of her life with you, Meredith and about your family…. – Rifka

  5. broo

    Congrats on the tongue twisting Splab baby/ baby Splab, Pablo…!

  6. Diane Westergaard

    Congrats to Paul and Meredith. That is the most alert-looking newborn I’ve seen.


    • Splabman

      Good to see you here, Diane. Thanks for your kind comments. She’s 5 days old today and you should see some of the photos Mer has been taking.

      I hope you are well. Paul

  7. auntmama

    This is a lovely welcome into the world. Thanks for the name narrative and the positive and negative spaces. Your writing is so much like a painting. Hope all continues to go well. xoxo auntmama

  8. Larry Laurence

    What a treat to see a 31-minute old! Congrats to Ella, Meredeth, & Paul! In honor of the occasion I just made a donation to SPLAB. All my best (& try to get some sleep wherever & whenever you can for the next few months).

  9. Marjorie Rommel

    Omygod, Paul — she’s got your eyebrows!


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