I suppose plenty of bloggers struggle with how much of their personal lives to share. I’ll admit, I didn’t give it a moment’s thought when I started writing this site a few months ago. But what with an addition to our own family, I’ve been unsure how to proceed.
So here’s my solution: might as well tell you everything. (If you’re just here for the name chatter and not for the details of my ever-so-exciting life, please feel free to skip the rest of the post. It’s either mildly interesting or mind-numbingly boring. But hey, it beats listening to coverage of the economy.)
First, Clio’s full name is … not Clio. It’s Claire Caroline Wren. Her first name has been written in stone since before my husband and I tied the knot, as part of the Great Naming Compromise of 2001. (Other couples sign pre-nups. We agreed that our firstborn son would receive his father’s name, our firstborn daughter my mother’s name. Given that he likes Emily and I prefer Callixto, this was no small agreement.)
But it wasn’t quite that easy. My father-in-law was born Aleksander in Poland. Did we preserve the Polish spelling? He’d dropped it when he became a US citizen, feeling it was better to Americanize his name. So we used Alexander on his birth certificate. I struggled with a nickname for years.
My husband rejected Sasha as too Russian. I latched on to Alexei as authentically Polish – or would it be spelled Aleksey? I considered spelling it Alexy for a while as a (messy) compromise, but when our toddler became obsessed with ice hockey, it was clear that he’d have to be Alexei. As it happens, our son calls himself Aly. His grandparents call him by a (Polish) diminutive that sounds something like OH loosh – a pet name my husband didn’t even realize existed before our son was born.
As for Claire/Clio, I realized quickly that the mistake we made with our son was not settling on any one name before he was born. Calling her Claire was out – it’s a family name on my side, shared by my mother, my great-grandmother and umpteen cousins. (After Clio was born, my sister married into a family with even more Clares.) And while it’s classic, it’s too tame for my tastes.
In fact, my mother isn’t actually Clare – she’s Clarina. It’s close to the literary Clarinda, but is actually an Americanization of an elaboration of Chiara – the Italian form of Clara. Because my mother was among the younger cousins to be named in honor of her clan’s matriarch, she received one of the more unusual variants. And oh boy golly, does she hate it! In fact, she has forbidden any of her four children from handing it down and so, Claire Caroline was our way of picking up the “ina.” I also liked Caroline’s “o” and felt it gave us more nickname options.
We’d initially considered the nickname Callie but a) it sounds too much like Kaylie and so many popular names; b) since my family calls our firstborn Aly, that would just be silly. I pushed hard for Coco, but my husband got more of a “gorilla” than “high fashion” vibe from the name. We arrived at Clio and both said “that works!” But then we argued about the e versus i spellings for a while. Arthur thought the e made more sense, especially since my dear dad had called me Cleopatra. But we eventually agreed on Clio, possibly because he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
As for Wren, my younger sister is known as Bird. So Wren honors Aunt Bird. I’m delighted that I managed to honor two of the most important women in my life with my daughter’s name.
Anyhow, settling on Clio upfront has made things quite easy. We don’t bother to explain that she has a different formal name – at least not in real life – and everyone is using it. Our parish (we’re Catholic) is exactly old school enough to respect the idea that we’re baptizing her with a saint’s name and to understand that family names often lead to nicknames. Since she’ll likely attend our parish’s schools, just like our son does, there’s little danger of confusion. (Though I suppose she might be annoyed to be Claire on her driver’s license. But I’m Amy on mine and no one who actually knows me would think to call me by that name.)
So back to my daughter – any my darling son – here’s a snapshot of the two of them on her first day home. Our firstborn’s feelings about his little sister are, predictably, mixed, but we’re going to keep her anyway.
There … more than you ever wanted to know, but I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling like I was hiding something by not revealing that Clio wasn’t going on her birth certificate. We’ve both fallen in love with the name, and feel it suits her perfectly – if anything, I’m a little sorry that I was so quick to agree back in ’01, but pleased to keep a family name alive, too.