Monday, June 30, 2008

On Becoming Judy Sombar

Saturday morning, June 28th, I legally became "Judy Sombar," bidding a fond farewell to my birth name of "Ollerenshaw." While, under many circumstances (including within my community and on this blog) I have been known solely as a "Sombar" (for convenience), I remained officially tied to the old me on my driver's license and medical records. Back in the mid-nineties, a couple of years before taking our vows, but knowing we would someday, Tom and I had a long talk about our names and the significance of them. We spoke of who would take on whose name and why- Tom making the argument that "Sombar" needed an heir in order to survive, as it was a made up title by his paternal great-grandfather (when he first immigrated to the States from Russia and didn't want it to be obvious that he was a foreigner). I retorted that "Ollerenshaw" was also rare and needed to be carried on (though I've since discovered that it is actually very common, especially in its native Wales)- so we said we'd wait to see if there were any boy "Sombars" born before our wedding, to other members of his family (there weren't).

I was never opposed, per se, to adopting my husband's name (I love him and it had nothing to do with my feelings for him), nor to the custom in our country which has made that the presumed but not necessary path for the bride. I have plenty of liberal friends who gave up their maiden names, and a number who have not. I have one friend who demanded that she and her husband combine names- which is the best of both worlds, in my opinion, but a little ridiculous for us when my own was eleven letters long by itself (Ollerenshaw-Sombar: ha ha ha). I must admit, that for the longest time, I hesitated, mostly because of my own sense of independence and wanting to remain within the identity I'd worked on so hard for twenty-seven years. I liked being an "Ollerenshaw" or "JudyO" as I was known by back then. And there was a big part of me, I think, that feared I would lose that woman if I adopted someone else's name. I had struggled and accomplished much as Judy Ollerenshaw and it felt as if I were erasing all of that by becoming someone else. So I didn't.

Now that I have four children, however, and I've become more secure in the life that I have built as a mother, a task harder than imagined at first (the isolation of being at home, and without a career that gave me more tangible rewards, was difficult to accept for a while), I feel strongly about having the "Sombar" name attached to mine. The most important part of my being are these humans that my husband and I gave life to, and more than anything I've ever strived for, I am proud to identify myself, by name, with them.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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