I think at one time or another, most of us have wished for a different name.
Zac first started toying with that idea when he was seven. We'd moved near Portland, Oregon, so Dave could finish his last year of seminary. We had new neighbors, a new city, a new church. It only seemed right to Zac that he got a new name.
"Mom, from now on, I want you to call me Sam, okay?"
I liked that name. In fact, it had actually made it into our top three contenders during the last weeks when we were awaiting Zac's adoption. But Samuel David Woodward sounded too old. It sounded like we'd be bringing a grizzled, 108-year old man home from the hospital. So we scratched it from the list.
I tried to reason with him. "Zac is such a great name. It means 'The Lord has remembered.' " After years of infertility treatments and angst and prayer, God had brought me my longed-for boy. I thought the name suited the situation perfectly.
"Sam's better," Zac argued.
I dropped the subject, hoping he'd forget. But about a month later, after we'd taken our new church's offer of a Parent's Night Out and dropped Zac off to spend two hours with a roomful of other parent-abandoned kids, we returned from our restful dinner out and grinned at him over the half-door of the youth room.
"Time to go, Zac. Grab your coat."
While he ran to get his coat on the other side of the room, I saw a boy near the door scrunch up his face. "Hey--she called him Zac. But he said his name was Sam."
Those two glorious hours of Samdom made a big impression on Zac. He was hooked.
"Please, Mom!" he'd exclaim in exasperation, every time I slipped and used his real name. "I'm Sam now!"
I think he'd still be Sam, except he heard the name Hank one afternoon. "I like that better--let's call me Hank."
After that it was Chris, then Sam again, and then Matt.
He renamed himself a dozen times over the next two years. And then Tera came to live with us. It took a year for our adoption to be complete, but that just gave her plenty of time to soak in all Zac's wisdom and idiosyncracies.
"I don't want to be Tera," she told us one day. "I'm Pookie. I mean Olivia. Wait--Nicole. Nikki. Yeah, Nikki."
She expected full participation from the rest of us. Wanting the vacuum one day, she popped her head in Zac's room to ask for it. "Zac, I need the bac-oo-eem."
"I'm not Zac," he said. "I'm Matt." Ten minutes earlier, he'd been Sam. From the kitchen, where I could hear the goings-on clearly, my head began to hurt.
"Mom! Tera's calling me Zac again."
Before I could intervene, she challenged him back. "I'm not Tera. I'm Nikki."
Zac ignored her. "Mom, Tera won't quit calling me Zac."
I walked down the hall. "Zac, don't you mean 'Nikki's calling me Zac?' "
"You called me Zac!"
I couldn't keep up. I decided to try to cajole him out of this nonsense. "But honey, that's your name. And it's a nice name."
He shook his head. "I'm going to change it."
"You can't just change your name. It costs money."
I wasn't sure about the current court costs. The last time I'd heard a quoted figure, I was nineteen and mulling over the possibility of changing my name to Natasha or Natalie. Figuring in for inflation over the past nineteen years, I doubled the figure. “It costs $500.”
Zac thought about that a minute. “I’m going to get that money. I’m going to have a fundraiser at church.”
I could only imagine the posters he'd make for that fundraiser. Give today! Help Sam correct an injustice ...
Although the thought of calling my children something other than their given names was distasteful to me, almost alarming, I had to stop and give it serious consideration. In the end, I concluded that the real appeal of a new name is the new start that goes with it. It's a reinvention of yourself. "This is who I was meant to be." It's rising to the challenge of a blank slate--and who doesn't want a blank slate now and then?
During this little period of our lives, we were homeschoolers. One day I visited a new homeschooling co-op to get a feel for things and decide whether or not we were going to join. Apparently I wasn't the only newcomer.
"Let's go around the circle and tell how many children we each have," the moderator said.
When my turn came, I smiled. "I have two."
"And what are their names?” the moderately asked politely.
I took a deep breath. “Zac, Sam, Chris, Hank, Matt, Tera, Olivia, Pookie, Nicole and Nikki.”
Flexible ... we must be flexible.