What's in a Name

My great-grandmother on my mom’s side had an unforgettable name: Immaculatina. She died long before I was born, but I think of her often—if only to imagine what someone with a name like that must have been like. She was born in a small village outside Rome, came to America as a teenager (alone!) in the early 1900s, met my great-grandfather, and spent the rest of her life raising her family on a farm in Connecticut. I know very, very little about her, but in my mind’s eye she was a badass mother of dragons who grew tomatoes as big as softballs, slaughtered chickens with a flick of her wrist, and hung long sheets of fresh pasta right next to the bed linens on her clothesline. I’ve seen pictures of her, of course, so I know that she was short and soft with skin as tan and wrinkled as worn leather, sparkling eyes the color of rich coffee, and long, silver-flecked black hair that she swept up into a bun. She was a no-nonsense broad who had better things to do than sit around bemoaning her waistline or her flabby upper arms. I don’t actually know any of this, of course, but I know. She was Immaculatina, after all.

To me, a name is so much more than a word used to identify someone (I mean look at me—I concocted an elaborate description of my great-grandmother based on her name alone). And while a name certainly doesn’t have enough power to define a person (that’s the soul’s job, right?), Macaire and I really believe that a good one is filled with just enough magic to set an identity into motion.

To that end, I asked a bunch of moms and dads to share their (incredible) kids’ names along with a sentence or two about their personalities. And—spoiler alert!—the descriptions of these babes sync so perfectly with their names, it’s nuts. Marlowe sounds so much like a Marlowe! Torin is completely, undeniably a Torin. And I’m fairly certain that if I’d known Immaculatina, I would have thought she was a total Immaculatina. Scroll down for the list.

This kid is  all  Bowie.

This kid is all Bowie.



“She’s calm, sweet, and gentle, and totally kooky! I never, ever know what she’s going to come up with next. I’d give anything to be able to see the world through her eyes, even just for a few minutes.”
—Kate, 35


“He’s just the classic definition of an old soul. He’s been around the block, he’s in on the joke…it’s like he was born waiting for the rest of us to catch up with him. I can’t describe him any other way!”
—Samantha, 38


“She’s funny, outgoing, and loud…oh my god, she’s loud. If she’s not screaming, she’s not talking at all. She’s just constantly screaming—happy screaming, but still!” —Caitlin, 27


“He’s introspective and quiet and often gets lost in his own world. Though he can be shy at first, he’s also deeply emotional and makes strong connections with people.” —Chris, 45


“She’s always been a leader, even as a preschooler, but really that just means she’s suuuuper stubborn and bossy. Her attitude comes on quick and hot like a flash of lighting. My husband and I joke that whoever she ends up with is in for it.”—Rachel, 42


“He’s thoughtful and sensitive, but he can be a total bear if things don’t go his way. He’s also fiercely loyal to his little gang of neighborhood boys. Mess with them, and you mess with Tor.” —Mara, 29


“The kid is a maniac, just out of control—and in the best possible way. His voice is loud. His body is loud. His art is loud. He’s everywhere all at once and then two seconds later he’s somewhere else completely.” —Jake, 35


“He has a really happy-go-lucky disposition. He’s either smiling or singing, which makes everyone around him happy, too. His teachers call  him Smiley Siley.” —Bruce, 41

So GOOD, right? My favorites are Hank and Clare. I can totally picture them—they’re just so…Hank and Clare! (Killer sibset, btw.) Now it’s your turn: What did you name your kids, and how would you describe them?


Cara SullivanComment