Clothilde

I was almost named Clothilde. (KLO-TEEL.  Wouldn’t have taken mean kids long to rename Kotex) So were my three sisters. No matter what heinous deed my mother may have committed or may commit in the future, I forgive her because she stuck up for me when it really mattered. Daddy was raised in North Louisiana during the deepest of the Depression, one of seven children always on the brink of starvation. His father either rented a farm or sharecropped when he couldn’t manage rent. Daddy didn’t speak often about his family’s situation, but occasionally slipped up and revealed the difficulties they suffered. They were a troubled family, economically and socially and moved frequently.

As an adult, Daddy patterned himself on Mr. Ward, a prosperous landlord he knew as a child. I am grateful Mr. Ward provided Daddy a good role model, except for one small problem. Mr. Ward had a lovely daughter named Clothilde. Her hideous name threatened all girl children in Daddy’s bloodline. He was set on Clothilde for Phyllis, his first born daughter. Normally, Mother acquiesced to Daddy in most things, but this time she put her foot down. No Clothilde!!!!! Daddy contented himself with naming the baby “Phyllis,” after an old girlfriend holding Clothilde in reserve for the next daughter. Three years later, I came along. “Clothilde” was the first word out of his mouth when he saw me. Thank God, Mother didn’t died in childbirth. Again, Mother stuck to her guns, so I got Linda. Daughter number three might have been his last chance. Even though Mother had had a long and difficult labor, she rose from her childbed, vanquished Clothilde, and named the baby Connie. Not expecting another opportunity, he lost hope. A little more than a year later, his fourth and last daughter joined the family. Hopefully, he asked Mother, “You wouldn’t want to name her Clothilde, would you?” Her name is Marilyn.   We thought that was the end of the story. Recently, my brother’s oldest daughter revealed the final chapter. “Mom told me something funny. When she was pregnant, Papa asked her to name me Clothilde.”

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