Last Names

Sometimes, the best solution is to laugh.

Any woman who has been born, married, had a child, and divorced—and remarried, and had a child, and divorced —has faced the “last name” issue.  Who am I?  Who am I in relation to my Ex?  Who am I in relation to my child - and my second child?  Oh, the last name possibilities!

The funny part to me, is that I’ve never been particularly attached to my maiden name.  It’s not awful or objectionable, I just never really saw the strong attachment: Kellner.  Growing up, I used to ponder feminist thoughts: “Is it really MY name?  It is my father’s name.  But what about my mother’s maiden name?  Why was that discarded in favor of the patriarchal name?”  It was my job as the rebellious younger daughter to explore such thoughts.

So, when I married, I didn’t think twice about changing my last name.  I had already come to terms with the fact that exchanging one man’s last name for another man’s last name wasn’t offensive to me: besides, the new name was a good English last name.  When my daughter was born, we took considerable time creating a first and second name that fit well with her English last name.  With her birth, her last name took on new importance to me.  I loved it.  It fit.

Divorce number one.


I still liked the English last name but it did seem a bit odd to be carrying my Ex’s last name into my new marriage.  Go back to maiden or take my new husbands?  With a daughter in the mix, it seemed too confusing to go back to maiden.  Two last names in one family seemed enough.  (hee-hee, just wait!).  Daughter #2 brought my same embrace to the new last name.  This last name had a French twist to it.  Embracing it fully, my younger daughter was given a beautiful French first and middle name.  Just like my older daughter, her name fit.  I loved it.

Divorce number two.

Now what!?!?  Sure, I could’ve kept my second married name, to correspond with my younger daughter- but now that seemed odd when I considered my older daughter.  Why was my younger daughter and I part of a last name team that didn’t include her?  I knew that the three of us were a team.  I considered taking steps to make all of our last names the same, but seriously, no.  Their names are as beautiful today as the day I chose them - including their unique last names.  It took me awhile to realize it, but maybe my parents also felt my name “fit” when I was named - my whole name.

Back to Kellner I went.

It may have been my father’s name, but it became part of my name.  Kellner is a good German name.  (Upon standing my ground, someone once raised an eyebrow and accused, “you’re German, aren’t you?”  Indeed, I guess I was.) Of course I’ve received more than one reference to Helen Keller - which I never took as teasing.  How could anyone be offended being connected to such an incredible, transcending woman?  So, Ellen Kellner it is.

So balance is what I’ve achieved in my household of last names.  You know those little garden flags?  My older and I joke that we need to fly three monograms.  Or how about three monogrammed shower curtains strung together?  Or perhaps hang a trio of name plates from our front pole light.  Wherever a monogram can be found, a chuckle is not too far away.  Our assorted last names don’t make us less, it makes us three self-confident, know-who-we-are people.  When my younger daughter takes up three lines in the church’s attendance roster to carefully write out our three names, I can only smile at all the practice she is getting learning all of her letters - and the life lesson that we are all one, despite outward appearances.

Last names.  As with most things, it’s only a big deal if you want it to be.  When it comes to the last name game, it’s much more fun to giggle.  I can only hope that more last names will join our merry band as we all grow in love.

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