Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Last Name

Just got a call from someone asking for "Sue [insert my last name here]." I told her I'm not Sue, but she has the last name right. I don't know any Sue [my last name]. Odds are that we're related, but not in any way that I know. My last name is, you might say, on the uncommon side. It isn't unique, but it isn't one you come across every day. My uncle once engaged in a geneology project -- hunting down everyone he could find on the internet with our last name, and seeing if he could find the common ancestor. He couldn't; but if I recall it correctly, he managed to trace us all to about three separate branches -- he just couldn't find a way to connect those three branches.

Felt bad for the caller; apparently she was friends with Sue some twenty years ago, and was trying to reconnect. As I think my phone book listing is "S [my last name]," it certainly was a reasonable guess.

Got me thinking about the frequency with which I run across people with my name. Which is: generally not (unless I'm at a family reunion). But I have this theory that there's one of us in every industry. My friends who went to Monroe High School asked if my Dad taught History there. (No.) My opthalmologist asked if my Dad was an eye doctor too. (No.) When I worked as an usher at a movie theatre, the projectionist asked if my Dad was a projectionist. (Nope again.) And, to my knowledge, I'm not related to any of those people.

I am both a lawyer and a theatre critic. I am not the first in either line of work. When I was in Law School, a friend came across a business card of a lawyer with my name (my first name, too!) at some coffee shop. I called the lawyer; she'd just won a case and took me to lunch. (She then fixed me up with her brother, on the theory that if we got married, I wouldn't really have to decide whether to take his last name or keep my own.) And there's another theatre writer in Los Angeles with my last name. For a while, some publicists thought we were the same person. (One knows we're two, but thinks we live at the same place, and sends me mail addressed to both of us.) When I explained to one publicist that we weren't (to my knowledge) related, she sat us together so we could meet. Couldn't find the common ancestor there, either, but it was nice to put a face to the name.

My name. My Dad's name. My grandfather's name. I don't think I'd ever change it -- if the opportunity were to present itself. It's who I am, and who my grandfather was. It's on my diplomas and on the deed to my condo (which I just signed and notarized -- and hopefully will be replacing, soon, with a deed to a house). But it's my branch of the family. It's my grandfather coming to America from Eastern Europe. It's him working a shit job to provide for his family. It's my father going to college and working hard to make a better life for his family. It's him sending me to Law School so I can have it even easier. It's my own accomplishments -- not standing alone, but considered as simply a continuation of theirs -- the product of their efforts and the current result of their drive. My place in my own family history.

And, someday, I hope that some kid in one of the other branches of the family, is asked if they're related to "the lawyer" or "the theatre critic" -- and they'll say no, having never even heard of me. But they'll know that I'm out of there, making another mark for the name.

No comments: