Sionna comes from the name Sionainn, a goddess in Irish mythology whose name means “possessor of wisdom.” She is the namesake and matron of Sionainn, the River Shannon. Sionainn is the longest river in the British Isles. Sometimes it is also spelled, Siona, which is also an Indian name meaning, “the stars.”
We first came across the word Sionna on a trip in Ireland. My husband and I were driving (scarily on the very narrow roads and I was in the passenger’s seat not the driver’s seat which means I was not in control) through the countryside from Galway, to Doolin, to the Cliffs of Moher to Bunratty when we saw a sign that said Sionna. It was an ordinary sign. Nothing special, but it caught my eye right away. I can see a picture of it in my head right now, as if it were here in front of me. This one random moment, so vivid a memory. The sign had the traditional Irish Gaelic right along with the common English words. Next to Sionna on the sign was the English name Shannon, the city we were flying back home from. “Sionna,” I said to my husband, “I really like that word. I like how the letters fit together.” I wasn’t sure how it was pronounced exactly but I decided it should rhyme with Fiona. And so it was… it sounded as beautiful as it looked. We talked about Sionna as “the name” from then on out. So when I got pregnant a few months later, Sionna was “the one.”
We debated, though, should this be a first name or a middle name? Would we “waste” it as a middle name? Should we save it for a future child’s name, if we had another girl? Months of discussions about names – even years before we were married – and it came down to that sign.
With a difficult to pronounce and spell last name, we decided that Sionna would be the middle name of our daughter. Ava would be her first name. I had always loved the name Ava. I was a fan of Eva (pronounced like Ava) Perone, or at least the musical version of her. Evita’s songs were beautiful and I loved this powerful woman being celebrated. My grandma Valerie (aka Momo) loved Evita too. We’d listen to the tape of the musical often when I spent summers living with her. I’d always pick Argentina as my country to study in Spanish class because of Evita. She fascinates me. So when my husband came across the word Avalon (on yet another sign) driving on a shoot (he is a photojournalist) in Dallas one day and suggested Ava be on the name list, I immediately agreed. To the top it went. He liked how simple it would be to spell and how short it was. Growing up spelling his last name (Anderfüren) with all its letters made him want to give our kids the gift of short names. It made sense to me. Only a year into using the last name myself and I was already too lazy to use all the letters when I signed my name in cursive. After the “f” it was a squiggle.
Ava Sionna is a beautiful, smart, sweet, creative, caring, thoughtful, sassy, inspirational, dreamer, doer, lover-of-books, writer-of-stories, actress, drawer, photographer, imaginative, singing-out-loud-to-the-music, more-than-a-mom-could-ever-dream-of, wonderful girl.