My name is a good one. Names have always been important to me. I think they should have meaning. I prefer that meaning to be tied into history, genealogy, rather than, say, where one was conceived. I am grateful to have that going for me with my name.
Let’s start with my last name, which truth be told, I had no say over. I am also beginning to believe it’s made up. Or stolen. I, in my relentless search for my roots, have not been able to find my dear old great-great-granddad, Timothy McClusk(e)y. He shows up in very northern New York and marries the lovely Mary Davey, and pops out many children. But no hide nor hair of him before that. But it’s Irish. And he was Irish. That I know. Maybe ole Tim was a thief, a gypsy, a murderer. Who knows. I read once that the name means “son of Bhloscaidh,” which translates to “son of a loud noise.” If true, then the name wasn’t stolen.
As for my first and middle names: My mother longed for a daughter. A little girl to dress up, plan weddings, have many girly expectations for. I’m not judging. Anymore. I get it, having a daughter of my own. I have taken a step back from my mother’s girly expectations, but truth be told, when she throws on ripped jeans and the oversized sweatshirts and sweaters she loves so much, I cringe, wonder why she doesn’t put a pretty dress on. A frilly blouse.
Life gave my mother a son first. Perfect. She had no complaints. There was the boy to name after my dad, she did her wifely duty, hoping the next one would be the little Colleen she longed for. More so because the next boy name my dad had picked out was after his father, and his oldest brother, an unusual name, a tough one to saddle a little boy with. While pregnant with number two, she was talking to my dad’s cousin Suzanne about names. Suzanne was three years older than my parents, unmarried. Dying. She told my mother she always liked the name Kathleen. When my mother told me this story, there was another middle name in there my mother could never remember. But considering the first and second generation Irish American McClusky’s had given their daughter’s grandiose French middle names, I am sure it was something out of the ordinary for our peasant ways. Suzanne died about three months before my second brother was born, and he was saddled with the cumbersome name, the middle one I still work on spelling correctly. My mother was so distraught when she woke up and the nuns told her she had another boy, she made them bring the baby to her and take his diaper off, to prove it.
A few months later comes pregnancy number three. The doctor assures my mother it’s a girl. “Joanie, I hear a faint heart beat. Sure sign it’s the little girl you want.” Eight months later (early delivery), and a rush to the hospital to save mother and/or baby, out pops two healthy baby boys. Their names are a whole other story. This is about me.
God, nature, someone, decided my mother’s body needed a rest, four babies in three years. So three years later, anticipation again. My mother got her princess, or Queen B as she liked to call me. My mom at that point considered Colleen a jinx name. My parents talked, and I was named Kathleen, and as a middle name, in memory of my dad’s cousin, Suzanne.
When I was about a month old, my great Aunt Sue, or Sister Mary William, as she was known to the world, and aunt of the Suzanne I was named after, sent me a letter, which I found a few years ago. She welcomed me to the world, as Kathy Sue. I thank the lord every day that name did not stick. And she told me about the first Susan in the family, another nun, a mother superior in the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. An heiress who gave it all up to become a nun. It’s a lovely legacy. One I am very proud of.