“Lynnie!” My father calling.
“Leo” – my sister, with a smirk.
“Mommy…” – my children, plaintive wail, needs-a-hug, reassurance-seeking.
A lover’s call in the dark night. A child’s fear-filled search. My parents’ quest for their hopes and dreams to live on in me.
I chose each of my children’s names carefully and deliberately. I wanted them to carry meaning and good wishes in the names that the world would know them by forever more. In choosing their names, I wanted to bestow upon them success and strong identity.
My neighborhood is pretty built-up with few old trees. When I find one, I linger, like the pine tree that hangs over the street two blocks away. When I power-walk up and down the streets, I often stop under that pine and inhale my favorite scent – the mountain-fresh aroma of evergreen.
Hebrew for pine is Oren. I hate that name but love the meaning. Almost gave it to my second son but didn’t because, well, I hate the name.
How I feel about Schreiber…
When I became engaged, my husband-to-be’s mother took me to lunch and asked quietly if I might consider taking his last name. “Schreiber is German for writer,” she said. And I smiled and nodded and took on his name, which I had always planned to do, for I didn’t like the ding-dong-doorbell sound of my first name and surname together.
For the past ten years, I have been known as Lynne Schreiber. And now, husband no longer, I carry on someone else’s surname. And I don’t like that.
Back then, I believed there was serendipity involved. If his name was Schreiber, and I am a professional writer, well then we must be destined for each other. Beshert.
Obviously I don’t think that anymore. And still his name hangs around my neck.
Yes, it is my children’s last name and that is one argument in favor of keeping it. But I am their mother regardless of my name and I am me regardless of whose name I tack on to my own.
I am a modest feminist – not bra-burning, but not wrapping myself in the cloak of separation and quietude any longer. And yet, I don’t love the idea that women are prodded, pushed, obligated in some parts to bear the name of some man – a father, a husband, etc.
What would I name myself if I were to do so? I’ve contemplated simply going by Lynne Meredith. Two names given to me by my parents 38 years ago tomorrow. I would revert to Cohn, my father’s name, if it weren’t so damn confusing to my work. And besides, does it change who I am, how I see myself, how others know me, to change my name?
The power of naming – it IS a power, don’t kid yourself. The names we select for others can elevate them or it can kill them. The power of words is no subtle thing.
And I begin my morning with a kiss of my little boy’s cheek and the knowledge that his middle name, Matan, means gift. Truly. Have a great day.