Just as I knew it would:
With Christmas cards the first holiday season
After the wedding
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Brzycki.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful,
Because I truly enjoy Christmas cards,
Even the drugstore ones with the dashed-off signature and nothing else.
But it makes me chuckle:
Mrs. Joe Brzycki?
There’s no such person.
I get it:
People assume that I changed my name,
Because that’s what most women do.
Or they don’t know my last name,
Or they know it but are unsure of the spelling.
Of the three last names in our house,
Mine is probably the easiest to spell:
Brzycki (Joe and his kids),
Hietalahti (my son),
I’ve thought about those smooth gray stones
You can order at the State Fair:
“Welcome to the Smiths!”
The neat and tidy family surname:
Everyone in the house with the same last name!
We’d need a boulder for all the names in our family.
But I love all our last names.
There’s a lot of history,
In the grand sense:
Polish and Scandinavian immigration to America–
And the modern dramatics of a blended family–
Marriage, kids, divorce, remarriage.
(And now another kid on the way who,
Will have my last name
Here’s the deal,
I don’t care what you do.
Tack it on at the end,
Slip it into the middle,
Make up a whole new name so
Everyone has to get a new drivers license!
Ever since the age of eight or nine,
When I realized that
Most women take their husband’s names,
I knew I would keep mine.
I haven’t wavered in that.
There are so many reasons I’ve kept my last name
Through one marriage and into another.
(Never had to change my passport
Yes, it’s about
Dare I say the F-word–
I’m gonna say it–
The idea of being Mrs. Joe Brzycki
Subsumes me into Joe
In a way that anyone who knows us
Would find absurd.
But I also kept my last name
Because I just like it.
I know what it means:
Peninsula, in Finnish.
I imagine a point wooded with pine and birch
Jutting into a clear,
Like a Boundary Waters campsite.
I’m a writer.
Names are words–
Are important to me.
Not just the aesthetics of how a word looks
But what words mean.
Why choose one word over another?
Does it matter?
Even as part of a family unit,
It’s my policy to keep a part of myself
Just for me.
And my own name,
From beginning to end,
Is a manifestation of that part of myself.
It’s like the
Just before I fall asleep at night,
When no children,
The divine chemicals of sleep
Bathe my tired brain.
It’s just me: Jennifer Niemela