I’d like to go on record as saying that I disagree about the very first decision my parents made on my behalf. My name. Not to say that I dislike my name or that it hasn’t stood me well over the years. For example, no one else whom I went through elementary, junior, or senior high school with had the name “Claudia,” granting me a kind of singularity. And you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a divinely handsome Italian murmur that name (my name!) with his irresistible accent.
But knowing now what I couldn’t have known then, and not being able to name myself as a newborn, I think I would have chosen the name “Grace” instead. Not because of the “amazing Grace” connection but because I believe it truly is a name to live up to. Defined as a kind of elegance, “grace” brings to my mind kindness, courage, and a beauty in how one carries oneself and bears life’s successes and burdens. It is also a way of living the truth. (In my case, I can graciously live with the fact that I will never be a graceful athlete.)
Of course, the name conjures up princesses, fairytale weddings, and ball gowns. But more important, it belongs to those who work hard without complaint, who face life’s challenges with a positive attitude, who do not give in to self-pity, who believe in doing the right thing and then go out and do it.
In his wedding vows, my husband used the word grace in describing me (is it any wonder I fell in love with him?). I am still awed by that (way more than by the gorgeous Italian pronouncing my name) and still surprised. Because I do complain, my attitude often needs adjustment, I am known to throw the occasional pity party, and while I believe in doing the right thing, sometimes watching reruns of The Godfather may keep me from going out and doing it.
So maybe sticking with my given name is a better fit. Maybe trying to live up to “Grace” as a self-descriptor is a journey and something to be earned rather than merely a name someone else chooses for me.
And maybe the best proof that my husband is right (again) is what he says every night before we fall asleep: “Good night, Gracie.”
© 2012 Claudia Grossman