It’s all in a name – and the rest of the story, from Catania

One of my favorite stories is about my name, why I’m called Mimi, and what my name really is.
My mother was 20 years old when I was born. My father, was a mamma’s boy, and my mother had a difficult relationship with her mother in law, my grandmother, Maddalena.
My mother was a typical 20 year old, who loved poetry, and at the time she particularly liked Edgar Allen Poe, and the names in his poetry. She wanted to name me Lenore. Before I was born, my grandmother asked my mother if she would name the baby if it was a girl, Maddalena, after her. And she threatened, “If you no putta my name-a, I no come-a see the baby”
My mother defiantly did not concede.
Soon after I was born, my mother found herself surrounded by loving family. The scene was this, my sheepish father, unable to make eye contact, my rapturous grandmother, overjoyed that she now had a granddaughter with her name. “Thank you for putta my name,” she exclaimed.
My poor little mother did cave in that time, but defiant to the end, my name was Mimi from that day forward, no one ever called me Madelaine, except for the religious sisters in parochial school, or my mother when she was definitely angry at me..
Chapter two – the rest of the story
I just got back from Catania, where I met the family of Maddalena’s sister Filippa. Filippa, another tiny little lady, had two sons that lived long enough to produce children, Domenico and Giovanni. Giovanni was the husband of Antonietta, my hostess for the week (he died about 20 years ago). Antonietta also had been a very young bride and lived in fear of her mother in law. She had to get her mother in law’s permission to do anything, to buy a pair of shoes, to eat a snack in her own house. So when her first daughter was born, 20 days before I was born, coincidentally, Filippa insisted that the child, should be Filippa. Antonietta was broken hearted, she wanted to name the baby Concetta, but her mother in law promised her, if you don’t name the baby after me, I’ll never speak to you again. So Filippa it was.
The second child, Concetta, her middle name was Filippa. The third, a son, you guessed it, FILIPPO!
Now, chapter 3. My mother was pregnant again.. Since she’d had an ovary removed before I was born, since I was a girl, my grandmother Maddalena was quite certain that any subsequent children that my mother had would be naturally be girls. Maddalena tried the same stunt again. This time she wanted the baby to be named Provvidenza, after HER mother. The tradition, of course, is that the second daughter would be named after its mother’s mother. My sister was born, and my mother called her bluff, my sister is named Marguerite. When I told Antonietta in Catania this story last week, she was so relieved and happy to hear that SOMEONE had finally stood up to their mother in law.
Two years ago, I finally named someone Provvidenza. We adopted a little feral cat, who we found providentially! We finally have one in the family. I call her Enza.

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