Sharing the same last name—Heiman—with my kids and husband at the time was fun. I took pride in teaching my little ones how to spell, write and pronounce their name, and I got a kick out of the excitement their grandparents showed when the kids mastered these feats. I also appreciated that our name was a fairly obvious clue for outsiders to make the connection that we’re family, for those times our looks didn’t do the trick.
When my kids’ dad and I divorced, I went back to my maiden name and, upon remarriage, was happy to add David’s and his kids’ last name, Minches. These alterations to my name took some getting used to. With Heiman, periodically I had to spell the name, as it was often confused with its homonym HYMAN. If I detect confusion with Minches, I simply say “inches with an M in front. For the most part, it’s been a smooth ride overall.
Every now and then, however, a situation creeps up reminding me that the primary tool for others to link my kids to me is no longer in place.
One such time occurred when I attended an Open House for my synagogue, where I had been a member for about 20 years. Since I was on the membership committee, it was my job to reach out to potential new members. I immediately found two fairly unfamiliar young women deep in discussion, so I waited for one to take a breath, and then I extended my hand and very proudly tried out my new name, “Hi, I’m Judy Minches.” They seemed a bit unsure of what I said—I may have swallowed half of ‘Minches’—so I said the routine “inches with an M in front,” and all was well.
Once we got the pleasantries out of the way, Betsy went back to telling Eleanor (names have been changed to protect the innocent) that she experimented with a new babysitter for her son and now all he wants is for the teen to hang out again. As my kids were of babysitting age and not in need of a babysitter, I patiently waited for this topic to end but, as time went on, Betsy became so very animated about her great find that I decided to excuse myself from the conversation. Just as I was about to walk away, I heard Eleanor ask what the babysitter’s name was and Betsy answered, “Michael Heiman.”
WHOA. Ding Ding Ding. “That’s my son!” I shouted (by the way, he’s OK with my using his name). Betsy laughed somewhat nervously, appearing to have concluded that I was indeed one of the older crazy ladies she was warned about. They dutifully smiled and nodded but went back to talking about this kid. MY kid.
“Did you say Michael Heiman?” I rather loudly asked. Betsy said, “Yes. He’s such a nice boy.” Proudly, I said, “That nice boy is my son.” She said “Oh, NO! His mother is Edith Heiman” (as you probably guessed, I changed her name as well).
Betsy’s forceful retort even had me momentarily fooled. Mike Heiman is my son, not Edith’s, right? Of course he is, I assured myself. Edith is Mike’s stepmom. I’m the real thing. In an effort to correct this misconception, the crazy lady reiterated, "Edith married Mike’s dad but is not Mike’s mom. I am!”
I realized I was transforming this Open House event from something fuzzy and warm to something downright weird for these newcomers, but honestly, I couldn’t help myself.
After all, I wanted credit for what I’ve done right in the world.