Well, Anna and the boys and I have some big news to share. Long story short, we have changed our last name from Herrema to Walker. This was a big, decade-long decision, something we wrestled and cried and contemplated over for many years. But sometime last year we decided to go through the steps and processes, and, as of last month had our court appointment, and are now, officially, WALKER’S 🙂
That’s the short story. If you want or care to know more, read below 🙂
Changing a name is a big, odd, complex, but ultimately meaningful experience. For years I struggled with it, knowing full well the headache it would entail, but also the challenge of asking myself why I’m really doing it, and what I’m hoping to gain from it moving forward.
Am I running from something?
Trying to distance myself from something?
Why not just own who you are and be the best individual you can be, regardless of what your parents named you or the bloodline you came from? I mean, that’s what everyone else does, right? So why feel the urge to break tradition, to go against the social and family norm?
These are good questions, and mostly the reason I took so long to do it. It was something I didn’t want to rush. Something I wanted to sit with and ponder as the idea came up, over and over.
And it hit home even more for me when I had kids. I put it in the forward to my book, “The Devils Name.” I wrote to my three boys and said “With best of intentions your mother and I gave you your names. We didn’t know you. We only had hopes and dreams and ideas of who you would/could be. But as you grow and learn and find yourself, you’ll get to one day tell me who you really are—you’re new name.” And if I believed those ideals so deeply for my own boys, why would I not also accept that possibility for myself?
So wether you’re 14 or 40, I imagine there comes a time for everyone to shed an old skin, identity, season, memory, friendship, accepting the gifts and lessons of that time, and move forward into their next best understanding and identity. And that’s what this all is. We’re both immensely grateful for the love and gifts we recieved from our families and earlier life, knowing much of what comes in life isn’t chosen, it’s passed on, given, demanded, culturally normal things like last names that no child chooses, it’s chosen for them. This, for me, and as I look back through history and literature and mythology and legend, is a meaningful and important step because it’s something we’re choosing for ourselves, and our boys.
The name Walker is the last name of Anna’s grandparents, Bob & Valerie Walker. The first time I met them I instantly felt a close and loving connection, as if they’d always been my grandparents, too. Bob and Val were sweet and kind and authentic and down-to-earth and humble and inviting. They welcomed me into their family and have treated me like their son from day one.
Now, I don’t know why it took so long for me/us to make this connection, but during a dinner last year, as anna and I were talking about the idea of a name change, I thought of her grandparents, and their son, Paul, who they lost many years ago. Paul was the youngest and only boy of their 5 children. He was 12 when he was walking home from school and was hit by a drunk driver. This sweet and beautiful family went through immense loss, and, even though Bob & Val are the kind who could care less that their name could no longer be passed on, it meant something for Anna and I, at least in spirit, to be able join them, be closer to them, take that name ourselves, and pass it to our boys.
Suddenly, the name Walker felt clear and meaningful and right.
Anna’s grandparents were close-second parents to her when she was young. Two angels who gave her the love and grounding and support and friendship that would last a life-time; a love that will now pass onward to our kids, and maybe theirs too if they choose so.
And one of the best times was telling our boys. Or should I say, asking our boys permission? We aim to give them as much decision and voice and free-will as possible, so we wanted to explain to them what we were thinking, and give them time to respond. This was not something we were going to force them to do. In fact, Anna and I both decided that if it didn’t sit well with them, if they were confused, nervous, embarrassed, or just didn’t like or understand it, we would not move forward with it. So, one night we sat down at the table and drew out our family trees, showing them where we all came from, from them to us to our parents and grand parents. We showed them aunts and uncles, name changes, divorces, marriages and re-marriages. It was quite cute actually, watching them follow all the circles and family tree, understanding it better than we imagined. We then explained to them how and why we were considering taking on the last name of grandma and grandpa Walker, and without hesitation Griffin and Maverick both smiled and liked the idea. They repeated the story back to us, and both of them liked the fact that they would be sharing a name with Grandma and Grandpa Walker, and Griffin, particularly, liked being able to pass on their name because they weren’t able to.
And just because I’m sure this question would come up, we also sat down and explained this whole idea to Jack last year. Same thing, we wanted to give him time to process it and then to make his own decision. His mom is remarried and has a new name now, and so, in a way, we told him that he actually had a lot of options. He could keep his last name Herrema, change his last name back to his mom‘s birth name Najmolhoda, change it to Lauren‘s new name which is Ross, or change it with us to Walker, or do something entirely different. Whatever he wanted, we just didn’t want him to feel left out, isolated, or just uncomfortable having a different last name than the rest of his family. After thinking about it for a few months, he concluded that one day he might change his name, but for now he didn’t feel any big need or reason to, and was OK just remaining Jack Herrema. And if you know Jack, this is equally special for me knowing that my 13-year-old is strong enough and independent enough to make his own choices and stick with what feels right for him, even if his dad and mom and brothers have different names than him. His decision to keep his last name Herrema makes me just as proud of him, even slightly more, than if he wanted to change it with us, because that, again, could just be a child following their parents choice. But I wanted him to choose, for himself, and I support and respect him for sticking to what feels right for him.
That’s pretty much everything 🙂
I realize the goofy-ness and confusion that will probably come with those anna and I have both known for over 30 years by a certain name, who may not have read this post or know how to find us with the new identity. But women have been doing this name-change thing for a long time, right? So we’ll all figure it out. 🙂
Thanks for reading, and being a part of our joyful little journey!
Ronnie, Anna, Griffin & Maverick Walker, and, Jack Herrema 🙂