Journalcalling • June 9, 2020
My first grandchild — a green-eyed beauty named by chance after my dad’s mom and consciously after me — is Nora Eileen. There is an interesting progression to this that I had not put together until a friend shared something about my name. She read that Eileen translated to hazelnut. Really? My name means a nut?
I had to look it up. My first search found the translation for Eileen meant, “a bright, shining light.” That was more like it. Further inquiry found it is derived from the French word aveline which does translate to that favorite coffee and dessert flavor. And French, huh?
For most of my life, I believed I was Irish through and through. There was no question that Eileen Mary Bernadette Doyle was a direct descendent of the Doyle-Hogan bloodlines which were 100% Irish as far back as the lineage went. Then it was discovered and passed on that my dad’s mom Nora Laurin was French! Gasp. She had died at 38 of complications following surgery in 1941, and I had never known anything about her. I looked closely at a photo of her in her nurse’s uniform to see the resemblance to my dad.
After I adjusted to not being purebred Irish, I suddenly adored that my name had French origins like my dad’s mom. He died at 37 when I was 12, and always desperate for more connection to him, I remembered that he chose my name and wondered if he had known about the link to his mom’s heritage. I do know that he overrode my mom. She wanted to name me Mary Beth. This would have been somewhat disastrous as I would have been Mary Beth Doyle and Mary Beth Boyle lived one street away and was in the same grade as me at St. Rita’s. Thank you, Dad!
So, back to my granddaughter Nora Eileen, who is pure joy at 3½. The link to her great great grandmother’s name seemed to be a random decision. When my son and his wife began thinking about names for their daughter, my son picked Nora after a metalcore band he admired out of New Jersey, and it stuck.
Her name is far more interesting than a filbert. It’s short for Honora, an Anglo-Norman name from the Latin for “honor.” It’s also short for Eleanora, a Greek name meaning “light”.
So, my little Nora Eileen is honoring the light like I am with some hazelnuts on the side, and best of all, living with a connection to her great great grandmother Nora Laurin and her great grandfather Buddy Doyle. For that, I’m willing to give up bragging rights to being all Irish.