I favored Clover, thinking it

quaint, vaguely 

fairytalesque like an Irish 

cottage. I plead hormones and 

wistfulness about 1/36 of my 

various heritages. Your dad used his

veto, and in retrospect it would

not have been powerful enough to

declare you.


He was enamored with Pollyanna.

I shit you not. I explained repeatedly the

connotation (I assumed he was unfamiliar) but

that somehow only strengthened his resolve. 

What if you wanted to rebel and be a goth?

My veto cast. 


Your mamaw liked Mackenzie. Something about

Scottish poet ancestors and strength and last

names as first ones, like your 

mama and your aunt. 


But Madeleine, like:

the perfect french cookie, 



Mary Magdalene, 

with history, gravitas, grace. 

Recognizable but 

uncommon enough to be 



Your preschool teacher mispronounced it 

(like the book character) enough that you

argued with me when I 

said it correctly. That year you ran from me in

the grocery store, and I had to regularly

restrain you on the lawn after pickup, wrangle 

you into the van, slide the 

door closed and try to 

breathe myself back from 

tears because you refused to 

take a damned nap after 

age two, the lone tiny 

body sitting up on her 

mat in the dim, serene classroom

chatting to the nearest grownup.

So. Many. Words. 


In school your class had another

Maddy for three years straight. Friends

called you “Good Maddy” and her “Bad Maddy” which seemed

uncalled for. There was a bonus Maddy on most

soccer teams you were on, and on most teams you

played against for thirteen years. 

(As a coach, how do you not sub a Maddy for a Maddy

every time, just to keep what you’re yelling clear?)


In middle school you complained no one knew

how to spell it without you telling them, oh my god,

it’s so embarrassing (as if I had no idea what that was like). 


You embrace your given 

name more lately, along with sometimes even

my advice, and more parts of yourself.

You are learning to spot intrusive 

thoughts that lie to you. 


I will never forget to be 

grateful you trusted the ones 

who named you to 

help you find courage to


in the fight and  

make a name for