We new Granuaile would be a girl before she was born. Jim, Brighid and I played with a lot of names – well, Brighid and I played with a lot of names, but Jim felt like he had final veto power over any of the names we chose. I prefer very traditional Irish names, and spent a lot of time at this website, which features Frank McCourt pronouncing the Irish names for baby. http://www.babynamesofireland.com/
My sister, Bean, who’s real name was Frances, died on March 7th, 2003. I knew that I wanted to incorporate the name Bean or Frances into the baby’s name – whether the baby turned out to be a boy or a girl – but I don’t so much love the name Frances, and Bean, well, that’s just odd. I decided Frances would be the baby’s middle name – or Francis if it was a boy (don’t tell Jim, who was convinced that if there was a boy, he would have been named Junior), and then set out to find something meaningful for a first name.
I loved a lot of the names I researched. Aoife was one of my absolute favorites, and I think if there had been one more baby girl in our future, there might have been enough time to convince Jim that I should be able to use that name. Pronounced Ee-Fa, the name means “beautiful, radiant, and joyful”. Who wouldn’t want their baby girl to have a name that means all those wonderful things? But that strong handed veto came down hard on Aoife.
Brighid has a CD of a band called Blackthorn, and one of the songs they perform is called “Granuaile”. It’s an homage to Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of Ireland, but the first two lines of the song is where the idea to name the baby came from.
“She was small, but what a sight! Men were wrapped around her finger tight.” I could just see our beautiful, tiny baby girl, doing what her two sisters before her had accomplished within minutes of their births – wrapping her Daddy around her little finger. And to further convince me that Granuaile should be her name, the name itself means Grace O’Malley – and O’Malley is my Grandmom Fee’s maiden name. I loved that woman to pieces, and Eilis’ middle name is in tribute to her, but how nice would it be to honor her even further?
Knowing that Granuaile is a mouthful for anyone – let alone a small child learning to speak and learn their name – a conversation was had where the family agreed that the baby would be called Granuaile Frances, and her nickname would be Gracie Bean. It was cute, it was doable, and we all agreed. Even the birth announcements were sent out with “Gracie Bean” in quotation marks underneath the name Granuaile Frances. And Jim printed out those announcements.
Now, this amazing little creature is 3 and a half years old. She’s been called many things in that short time, but only her father has consistently called her Granuaile – when he is not calling her JR Super Baby (JR came from his desperate desire to have a Junior). Most of the rest of the time, she’s been called Gracie. She even calls herself Gracie.
As she gets older, though, and closer to school age, her father becomes more adamant that we should use her real name. And Granuaile becomes more resistant. To begin with, it’s easier to say Gracie. She can say Granuaile, but only the immediate family will know that’s WHAT she is saying (it comes out sort of like “Gwon-well”). And she will have full blown arguments with her father over her name. If she wants a treat or a snack, he’ll say, “What’s your name?” and she’ll answer “Gracie”. And the battle begins, continuing until I step in, grab the snack out of Jim’s hand, and hand it to the baby.
So I stopped in at work the other day to pick up a few meals for the kids. My boss has not met my daughters, but I brought them in with me so Brighid could choose the meals. As grown ups will do with small children, my boss leaned over and asked Granuaile what her name was. Nine times out of ten, she won’t answer at all, and on the tenth time, she’ll say Gracie. But this was Monday morning, just hours after a weekend with her father calling her Granuaile. So when Roseann leaned over and said, “And what’s your name?”, my little girl looked back up and said,
“My father makes me say Granuaile, but my name is Gracie.”
And it makes me reminisce about the days when then 4 year old Brighid demanded to be called “Pansy”. No reason. It just sounded good.