My neighborhood book club met last week to discuss Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. Our host’s first question addressed Clementine’s parenting skills or lack thereof.
That brief discussion threw us into a conversation about our own parenting. We asked ourselves: Do we play favorites (when it comes to our children)? Do we and/or our husbands favor girls over boys and vice versa? Were our parents guilty of any or all of the above?
Our banter moved up and down and all around. Finally, I said something I’d been wondering: “I’d like to hear the stories behind each of your names. Why did your parents give you your particular name?”
We went around the table as my fellow book club members answered, one after the other.
Mary Ellen, who sports a cropped silver haircut and multicolored, rectangular-framed eyewear, said her father named her for an army buddy’s mother. The buddy’s mom shipped whiskey to the barracks on occasion, and he was forever grateful.
Our resident yoga instructor and ever-positive Bonnie was also named by her father. He called her “Bonnie” after Bonnie Blue Butler of Gone with the Wind fame – Rhett and Scarlett’s bonny little girl.
Our host that evening had prepared a proper English tea for us in elegant Lady Clementine fashion. Like Bonnie, she was named for a screen star. The Dick Van Dyke Show was popular in the 1960s. Our host was named for one of the title characters—not Mary for Mary Tyler Moore, but Laura, for the character Moore played.
One of our members is a tall, olive-skinned young woman, a Cambodian immigrant, now an American citizen. We call her “My,” but her given name is DoarChan Rasamy. My, the youngest of 10 children, joked that her arrival was unexpected.
“After I was born, my father asked the members of our village to name me,” said My. “They chose ‘DoarChan,’ the Moon Goddess that represents grace and beauty, and ‘Rasamy’ which means radiance.”
In other words, My’s given name means “radiant and graceful beauty.” She embodies all that and more.
Only one of the group members present that night was named by her mother with no influence from her father. Julia—we call her “Julie”—was named for her mother who was named for her grandmother who was named her great grandmother, etc., etc., etc. I know, I sound like Yul Brynner in The King and I.
Family friction rose to an all-time high when Julie named her daughter, her mother’s granddaughter –“Jennifer.” No, nope, nada—that did not go over well with the matriarch of the family. But Jennifer, the granddaughter is and Jennifer, she remains. And the last in a long line of Julias has no regrets.
As for me, I’ve well-documented that my father named me for his sister, Genevieve. My Aunt Genevieve owned a Merle Norman Cosmetics shop. Her hair was never out of place; her clothing choices impeccable. She carried herself with grace and dignity.
But the beauty in Aunt Genevieve was that she loved her scabby-kneed, tousled hair, tomboy namesake despite our differences. For that, I remain ever grateful.
As it turns out, the way I came by my name is something Lady Clementine and I share in common. It is thought that she was named in honor of her Aunt Clementine, who, like my Aunt Genevieve, was known for her patience and generosity.
I guess Lady Clementine is what started all of this name fame. The girls and I eventually jumped back on the path to discuss the book. But our entertaining detour had taught us a lot about each other.
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