Deirdre Kelly

What’s in a Name?

When I realized I was carrying a girl, I searched for a name she could live up to. I sifted through my memory for illustrious women with names I could borrow for my child, but soon hit a wall. Most of the best-named women through history had something worng with them: Ophelia was a sap who drowned herself in a  river over a guy; Thomas Hardy’s Eustacia Vye a fool; Emma Bovary a screaming narcissist; ditto Cleopatra. 

Boudica, Queen of the Celts, was a strong bird with a clarion cry that once scred the bejezzus out of teh Romans. But I couldn’t imagine my daughter going through school with a name like that. Kids would shorten it to Booty, and I didn’t want that.

I was reading at the time a biography on Isadora Duncan, a great artist, truly pioneering, and that’s when I decided that she’d be my daughter’s namesake.

Isdaora was alaso a narcissist as well as a drunk and a nymphomaniac. She died tragically by stangulation when her scraf caught inthe spokes of a Bugatti, justa s she was shouting A la Gloire! To the Glory! 

But while flawed I saw much in her to admire: she had grit and determination; she inspired every artist of her day; she was a true original. Isadora it would be.

My daughter, now seven, has in her short life already lived up to the first Isadora’s legacy.

She birthed herself in the car on the way to the hospital, pushing herself out into my pants while I was driving in the front seat, a girl already with her own agenda.

She chose as her birthplace the spot directly outside a Toronto theatre where Agatha Christie’s Mouse Trap had played for years, on Bridgeman Ave.

I was consious enough, depsite my panic and screams, to see it as a sign: She would be a woman well schooled inthe art of the dramatic gesture.

When she couldn’t even walk, and would hold onto a side of furniture for balance, I watched with astonishment as she performed what definitely was a series of battements and tendues, techniques of ballet, an art form she had yet to see. I had the funny feeling that her name might indeed be her destinty.

She passed the audition to the National Ballet School of Canada when she was six (her teacher had insisted she try out), but I ultimately didn’t let her go becuase the classes are on weekends and my spitfire likes to ski. And fast.

Last year, she came in first out of hundreds of girls in her age group when she ran for the first time the Toronto District School Board’s city-wide cross country race at Ashbridge’s Bay. She had never trained, and I had no idea she was that good.

I had run track as a child and into my early 20s when injuries hobbled me, completely. It was the first time thinking of my daughter as having inherited anything from me, other than her fiery temper.

This year, she ran first again, and I cried when she whizzed past me, so proud, I couldn’t speak. I could only cry out her name:

“Isadora! Isadora!  You are already so powerful.”

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