Today alone, two different people told me that they had never heard my name before. A third person told me that they thought my name was pretty. People ask me about my name all of the time, and I love talking about it.
My mother grew up living with her grandmother, who immigrated to the United States from Poland when she was a teenager. I can’t imagine leaving everything I have ever known to move to a country I have never been before – especially without cell phones or internet – knowing I would never see my home again.
But my great-grandmother did.
My mom has the best stories about her grandmother, the things she would say, the advice she would give, and the way that she always supported my mother, no matter what. My great-grandmother went through some really rough times, but she did what she had to do and was always very strong.
I never met my great-grandmother, but I know that she never missed a single person’s birthday. I know that I get my love of sending letters and cards from her.
Her name translates from Polish to Carol.
My great-grandmother and my mom were very close, and before my mom was ever even pregnant with me, she promised her she would name me after her. Of course, being the way she was, my great-grandmother told my mom that she didn’t need to do that, but my mom always knew that if she had a daughter, she would name me after her.
When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, my name was decided — almost.
She knew she wanted to name me after her grandmother, but she also wanted to give me an English name. So, my parents decided to name me Carol-something. Carolyn? Caroline? Carolina? They tossed around all of the different versions of Carol-something, but nothing felt right to them.
Even after I was born, they couldn’t decide. Three days after I was born, my mom said to my dad, “What about Carolann?” And they knew that was it.
Not Carol Anne.
I love that my parents gave me a name so unique that I’ve never met a single person with the same name.
People always ask me about my name because it’s not common. You might know someone named Carol -something, but they go by Carol. Not me. I will always be Carolann. I’ve never had a nickname and have never wanted to be called anything but Carolann.
Well, that’s not exactly true. My dad calls me Carolannie – but he’s my dad and I love when he calls me that. I also love that instead of shortening my three-syllable name he lengthens it. Only dads can do that.
Names are important. They have history, meaning, connotation. They have weight. They have power.
I love that my name is different. I think it’s pretty, and I love the way it flows. I love that my parents put so much thought into it. I love that they took 3 days to choose just the right one. I love that my name carries meaning in my family.
I love that I was named after a strong woman.
I never met my great-grandmother, but I feel her spirit with me. Whenever I have to do something hard, like pack up and move yet again, I just have to remind myself that I am the great-granddaughter of a woman who came on a boat from Poland to America when she was 16 — and never looked back.
I don’t know if I will ever live up to my name, but I sure will try.
What’s the story behind your name?