Neither of my children are named as I’d imagined. My family is Italian and I had always envisioned the older version of myself followed about by a gaggle of children with long, ostentatious European names. Of course, with hindsight it’s completely obvious to me now that naming the girls is a perfect metaphor for my parental journey: They did it themselves.
I can’t lie, naming a baby is about the most fun I can think of having so when pregnant with my first child I idle hours daydreaming about who is coming and what she will be called (I never found out the sex but I knew she was a girl) Valentina is and always will be my favourite name but my husband was so opinionated about how it would be abbreviated. This is the reality of naming Australian children, no one is immune to a nick name. So I throw around all my favourites – Rafaela, Talulah, Mietta -all met with a firm “no no no” from Reid, nothing sticks.
I am supposed to be travelling to Brazil with work that year but the plan is scrapped when I find out I am due to give birth around the same time. I have book marked several articles about places I wanted to visit and one day when a late term bout of morning sickness has me bed bound I pull out a Vogue feature of Andrea Viera Newton’s Brazil home and in it she references her two daughters – Harley and Rio. As soon as I read the later I sit up zombie style in bed and all my hair stands on end. I casually suggest it to Reid over dinner for fear that my conviction will tempt his stubbornness but he reacts just as I had, I’ll never forget his gruff smile as he says “that’s such a happy name”.
Rio Valentina is a scruffy, gap toothed, sandy haired, golden tom boy with punk and grit to spare. Her name is perfectly suited to her, I’m so glad I let her chose it.
Second time around I feel the panic of this potentially being the last time I name a child so some of my suggestions are ridiculous. 3,4,5 middle names – a “formal” first name that we won’t use but I just want to get it in there somewhere. No nonsense husband is having none of it. In a post Kardashian world I stand firm against anything that starts with an “R”. Reid likes Aspen but I feel like we would be making a fairly bold statement about travel if we go down this path. I have no idea about the sex of the baby but my minds eye can only see us wrangling little ladies.
We narrow it down to Elke or Dusty for a girl, my preference is Elke, his is Dusty. We will work it out on the day. Wilde will be her middle name because now we know her sister & cannot fathom subtlety.
One day I re-watch Christiane F and there is David Bowie singing about hero’s and dolphins and kings. Bowie Bowie Bowie. I push it to the back of my mind because I want to name her Elke. One night I can’t sleep and turn the TV on to a Labyrinth re-run. Bowie Bowie Bowie.
The day before I am booked in to have the baby at a ripe and stubborn 42 weeks we take Rio out for dinner, ice cream and a walk around the block. Reid says with casual nonchalance “You know Elke is not right, that’s not her name” I am stunned and relieved and emotional because he is right. My Aunty Rosa passed away the week before and I can’t stop thinking about her. I say how about “Bowie Rose” and he laughs and says “there she is!”
Bo is vocal, charming, boisterous, warm hearted and so cheeky. She is as bald as they come and has a milky peaches-and-cream complexion, our little Rose.
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