Journey to Wassail

Eric suggested it first: “You know, we could create a portmanteau of our last names… Rudicek… Wasaile.” At first, I thought this was a crazy idea. People don’t make up new last names. Can you even do that? Besides, I liked my last name. Yes, it was annoying to have to spell it over and over again and nobody ever pronounced it correctly, but it was mine and people knew how to find me. Did I really need to change it? Why was it the woman who was supposed to take the man’s name again? On the other hand, maybe it would be nice to have a shared family name.My mother elected to keep her name when she married. I respect that decision and would have made the same choice myself without other options; however, growing up as a child of parents with different names wasn’t without its small challenges. To ensure my mother wouldn’t ever be accused of kidnapping us, my parents gave me and my siblings each our mother’s last name as a middle name leaving us to invent alternative names we preferred to our first names. Sylvia, Gabriella. How jealous I was of kids who had two names to choose from! Despite the middle name, my teachers never knew my mother was mine when she showed up to parent teacher conferences. “Which child in my class is American?” Of course, my British accent made that trickier, but the easy link wasn’t there. When we moved to Connecticut and the other parents on our street insisted their kids call parents Mr. and Mrs. [insert last name here], none of the kids could remember that Mom’s last name was different, and Mom’s frustration was palpable: “Just call me Peggy.” But that wasn’t permitted.

With a shared family name we could avoid all that. I wouldn’t have to go by some other name because it was easier for people to remember. Any future children would be connected to both of us without worrying about kidnapping or middle names. And we would both go through the reportedly nightmarish process of changing our names together like all the best things we do. Eventually it started to sound like a pretty good idea and we decided “Wassail” had a lot of benefits. 1) It’s pronounced the way it looks; 2) It’s a word, so if you forget how to spell it, you can look it up in the dictionary. Eric never liked the pesky ‘e’ at the end of his name which always tripped people up, so we got rid of it.

Of course, it turns out truncating two last names and smashing them together is the easy part. Actually changing one’s last name is a bit more challenging. California is the only state in the United States that allows this as a matter of course after marriage. Massachusetts only allows couples to change their names to a name that appears on the marriage license. So we could both take mine, or both take his, but a new name was not an option without petitioning the court. After petitioning the court, we are required to post the new name in the newspaper so anyone who is looking for us can find us. “Which newspaper?” you ask. We aren’t sure yet.

Eric looked up the required paperwork on Massachusetts’s website and downloaded the forms. We filled them out and sent in a check with the appropriate fees only to receive a phone call from a nice woman at the Probate and Family Court who said, “Hello sir, did you request a name change? I’m afraid you’ve done it all wrong.” “What do you mean I’ve done it wrong, I filled out the forms I found on the website.” “Yes, I’m sorry, those aren’t the right forms. I’ll send you the correct forms in the mail. And you can try to motion the court to waive the newspaper requirement. They may not do it, but you can try.”

Ok, round two. We filled out the forms including the motion to waive the newspaper requirement. The acceptable reasons for waiving the requirement appear to be 1) you are a minor child whose parents have both agreed to the name change. We aren’t. 2) it would be dangerous to you to post your new name in the newspaper. It wouldn’t. So we are left with, “no one is looking for us”, but we aren’t really sure how this form works, so we just say, “we politely suggest it is not warranted” and wait to see what happens.

What happens is we receive a notice of assignment and a court date. On October 31st, we are going to courtroom 4 to present our motion to a judge. Neither of us has been in a courtroom before, so we’re not really sure what’s going to happen, but at least we can do it together.


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