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30 March 2007 · matching runrig
My daughter will not have my last name. My sister no longer has my last name, my aunt's daughters and their children never did, and my uncle has no children, so this looks likely to be the end of that streak. There was a solid old Scottish clan somewhere way back in my lineage. Too bad their perfectly good name got hideously co-opted by the misguided belief that food most pressingly needs to be fast.  

When B and I got married, it turned out that we both already had a full set of names we were accustomed to using, both for ourselves and each other, so neither of us changed any of them. At some point later, long before we actually decided to have a child, the question arose of what last name we would give them if we did. I proposed that we give any boys my last name, any girls B's. There's no particular moral logic to this (unless you think gender is inherently moral, which I don't), but it seemed to be both fair and deterministic, and unlike hyphenation it could be adopted as a general social practice without imploding abjectly one generation later. When we found out we were having a girl I quickly reaffirmed my support for the idea, and barring some alternate inspiration in the next week or four, that's what we're going to do.  

While we wait for the new system to sweep the planet, I guess I'm probably in for a few years of patiently explaining that yes, she really is my own daughter, created by my wife and I merging our personal genes using the oldest traditional technique available. Our daughter's merged genes will be whatever they are, no matter what name we give her, or who I have to explain it to. It was always wildly inane to think that anything complex enough to matter is carried in names. My lineage is more Sicilian than any other one thing, and probably more German than Scottish, and certainly none of those things in any culturally meaningful sense.  

My daughter will have everything I can figure out how to give her. Or, more precisely, I will offer my daughter everything I can figure out how to offer. What she takes and rejects and keeps and cultivates will be her decisions, so what she will end up having, I have no idea. I've been to the Clan Donald Centre on the Isle of Skye, and in fact I bought my first Runrig CD there, so there's a fairly literal sense in which I found a piece of myself in Scotland. But I've found bigger pieces of myself on street corners in London, and along leaf-cutter-ant trails in Costa Rican rain-forests, and in scaffolded churches in Barcelona and Paris. Even the most mundane pictures of cats or noodles or wires in Tokyo make me ache wildly like I'm absent from part of my self. I want to learn Korean and relearn Swedish, and I want our daughter to learn Spanish and Chinese, or to at least have the opportunities. I want her to have the opportunity to find pieces of herself at the ends of the sky, or hidden behind the goodnight moon, or in other people or new truths or old trees.  

Nothing is ending. Or a thousand things are ending, both huge and trivial, like they do while you're waiting for anything new. It's weird that we're in charge of picking our daughter's name at all, weird that we're going to be making command decisions about another person's life, weird that it will be so long until she has the powers to which she's inalienably entitled. Weird to be sole guardians of such a tiny, squirmy piece of the future, but I guess no weirder than being stewards of our family histories, or of other people's histories we adopt for our own joys and dismays, or of ourselves. No weirder than the idea still is, even after we've been there ourselves to see, that the sky doesn't end there where it disappears with such an emphatic glow.
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