Consulted by prospective parents on naming of their baby girl I handed over my copy of “Baby Names” bought in the distant past when I considered fiction writing, expressed my hope they would give the kid a recognized feminine name not an all-purpose Spencer or some such non-generic version that gives no hint of who you might be about to meet , then recounted my experiences based on years of sharing my name with our first daughter.
We didn’t choose my namesake to worm her into a rich grandparent’s will; no such prospect presented. Our choice was more of a bail payment. The hospital threatened to hold her hostage until we filled in all the blanks on her birth certificate.
Both my husband and I liked the name: all the letters sit above the line; it looks good as a signature; and I’ve always been proud of sharing the diminutive of my Dad’s name – Claude.
Until I was 20, movie star Claudette Colbert was the only namesake I knew of before a six year old moved into town to become best friends with my much younger cousins. Her arrival put my nose so out of joint cartoon witches were less deformed. To further dilute my specialness my cousins bestowed my nickname upon her. I felt doubly dispossessed.
Yet despite liking my name enough to share it with our daughter, she was ten months old before I conquered my self-consciousness and could call her anything but Sweetheart. Even today, five decades later, I still speak to her as Sweetheart, a quirk that swivels hopeful heads when I meet her in Terrace airport’s arrival lounge.
As naive parents, we had no idea of the confusions she and I would face along the years.
Insurances (both life and medical); hospital and doctors’ records; letters to the editor. All are prone to mixups. My letter to the editor of “The Province” critical of a government agency didn’t sit well with her employer until she drew attention to my address.
Optometrists sorted her contact lenses from my bifocals. Our family doctor separated her fractured ankle from my arthritic wrist.
Co-owners of names carry extra responsibilities to protect each other’s reputation. Suppose one passes a bad cheque, deals drugs or otherwise leads a blemished life?
Phone calls presented special befuddlements. We determined her calls from mine by asking, “Did you want to speak to Big Claudette or Little Claudette?” When both our weights zoomed, we revised the question to “Old Claudette or Young Claudette?” As we became touchy to our additional years, we compromised with “Claudette, the mom, or Claudette, the daughter?”
Any time we sent her a cheque, at her suggestion Dad signed. Otherwise, when she presented our cheque to her bank, tellers huddled with the Fraud Squad.
When she graduated from Langara’s journalism school and moved to Castlegar, we thought 1500 km distance would solve our identification dilemma. Not so.
Within weeks of her byline appearing on the pages of the “Castlegar News,” a former Terrace resident – by then living in the Kootenays – phoned her expecting to renew acquaintance with me. The caller’s cheery greeting was met with my daughter’s puzzled silence.
My conclusion is unless a sizeable inheritance hangs in the balance, becoming a Junior or a III isn’t worth the muddle that goes with sharing a parent’s first name. As golfer Jack Nicklaus, son of the Golden Bear, said, “Having the same first name opens some doors, but doesn’t hit any balls for you.”