The Apple of His Eye



Daughter of David J. Koeppel

My parents have told me this story so many times, I can almost recite it from memory. A few weeks after I was born, Ernesto, an old family friend, came over to the house to meet me, the new Koeppel baby. He had just traveled back to New York from his home country of Italy. He came bearing beautiful hand-made gifts, made by his wife, for the first female child born to my parents.

Ernesto approached the crib quietly, not wanting to wake the princessa. “Bella princessa,” he whispered under his breath. Not yet knowing my name, he asked in his thick accent, “What is her name, this beautiful child?” My mom replied, “Claire” while beaming…my mother loved this name that means bright and sunny in French, the second language she learned in school. Ernesto seemed to love the name too and kept repeating it in his Italian accent, “Cladda. Cladda. Belissima Cladda”. When my father heard Ernesto say my name in his beautiful Italian accent, he could not help repeating it this way too. It sounded so beautiful to him as it rolled off his tongue, “Cladda. Cladda.”

Through the years, my dad got in the habit of calling me “Cladda”. I was his first and only daughter after having two sons and saying my name this way just made him feel even more special about having a daughter. He used this nickname often and everyone got used to hearing him say it around the house. So, it was not unusual, that one day when I was about five years old, my mom was calling me to come to dinner and mistakenly called me by my nickname used only by my father. “Cladda. Cladda! Come to dinner,” my mom called out. Hands on hips, I stormed into the kitchen. No one had ever seen me like this before. With a look of outrage in my eye, I shook my finger at my mother and said clearly, “I am NOT your Cladda. I am DADDY’S Cladda!”

As fresh as this seemed at the moment, my parents quickly realized that being “Daddy’s Cladda” was something precious for me too. More than that, however, it made me feel uniquely loved and cherished by my father as if I am the most important person to him in the world. My mom never made that mistake again and thankfully, I remain my Daddy’s Cladda.

David Koeppel is an attorney in the real estate business in Manhattan. Aside from working, he enjoys many hobbies such as playing golf and hockey. He lives in New York City with his wife Lesley, and is the proud father of their three adult children.

Claire Koeppel, born in April 2000, is the daughter of Lesley and David Koeppel. She worked on this story with her mom when she was in the fifth grade. She is currently in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.  Claire is a Meriwether Lewis Fellow and was part of the Blueprint Emerging Leadership program,. She has two older brothers, Noah and Adam.