What’s in a Name?

Alabama ID cardI have no idea what my name would have been had I not been adopted as an infant. As it turned out, I was christened Lillian Sue Wiygul. Sue came from my maternal grandmother, Sue Eleanor Varner. Lillian came from my paternal grandmother. Well, it sort of came from my paternal grandmother. I heard her called Miss Lil all my life. I guess my parents assumed Lil was short for Lillian. When they called to tell Daddy’s parents of their new arrival and that they had named her after Miss Lil, I’m told there was a long silence on the phone broken only when Miss Lil announced, in a hauty voice, “My name is not Lillian. I am Lilly Victoria. Whoops.


I’ve always gone by my middle name, Sue. It’s not that I don’t like the name Lillian, it’s a lovely name. But I was always just plain Sue. When Jim and I married in 1985 I took the name Sue Wiygul Martin. I happily used that name for seventeen years. When we moved to Alabama in 2002 I had to get a new ID. That’s when I found out that you can’t legally drop your first name unless you legally change your name. That knowledge sort of rode around on my shoulder for over a decade. I thought about it when I traveled for the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA. We have to use our legal first names in FedTraveler, the online travel package used by VA. I thought about it when I had to have my Personal Identity Verification, PIV, badge made. And it’s been slapping me in the face every time I use the smart card to log onto one of my VA computers because my screen reader speaks the name on the card every single time.


Earlier this month I opened a PayPal account and, guess what? I had to use my legal name on the account. When I released my book a couple of weeks ago people started buying the book. Confirmation emails started going out from my PayPal account and people started scratching their heads, wondering who Lillian Martin was.


It was the release of my book that finally galvanized me into action. The name printed on the book is the name I’ve been using, illegally as it turns out, Sue Wiygul Martin. I put everything I had into that book and I suddenly had a deep seated need for my legal name to be my true name.


I began making enquiries. What a mess! I had to petition the court and present a certified live birth certificate, our marriage license, and proof of residence. We live in St. Clair County in northeast Alabama so we had to go to Ashville, the county seat. We both work in Birmingham and Ashville is in the opposite direction so we had to take leave from work to get the deed done.


Once I filled out the petition I had to sign it and get it notarized. That meant I had to find a notary public. I started asking around in the office and Jeri unearthed Samantha. The next time I was in the office, Samantha Brought her seal making gadget and I signed the petition. We took time off last week and took all of the materials to the courthouse in Ashville. They had to open a case on the docket so I had to pay $45, in cash. Who carries cash these days? Fortunately, there was a bank just across the street. They set the date for me to appear before a judge for September 27, 2013.


We slept late that morning and headed for Ashville at 7:30. As we drove down the driveway Jim asked, “What are we supposed to have with us?”


Turning to him, I said, hesitantly, “I . . . don’t . . . know.”Both of us wracked our brains but neither of us could remember what, if anything, we were supposed to have with us. We drove all the way into Springville in silence. Finally, at the four-way stop, I said, “I think they’ve got everything there. They’d have to because, remember, they had to have the paperwork to open a case on the court docket.”


“Yeah, yeah, that makes sense,” Jim replied. We relaxed and drove on.


At the courthouse, I told the lady what we were there for and she had us take a seat. Then we were summoned to the court room. When I imagined this scene I pictured a room, paneled in dark wood, filled with people who had business with the court. We were ushered into a smallish room that was completely empty. Before I could get Kismet settled, the judge, wearing a black robe, entered the room, followed by a clerk. For some reason Kismet chose that moement to do her clever imitation of a wookie. I was thankful that the judge laughed at my little darling’s antics. Eventually I got her calmed down and stuffed her under my chair. Lest your imagination run away with you, the “dog stuff” just involves getting her to sit, facing away from me, and then I give her the command, “down,” and slide her neatly beneath the chair. A very useful procedure for keeping dogs out of the way and tails untrodden upon.


The judge asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I would give truthful answers to his questions. Sitting up straight, I did as I was told. He asked a number of questions concerning my desire to change my name and I answered them one by one. “Why do you want to change your name?” he asked.


“My maiden name was Lillian Sue Wiygul but I’ve gone by Sue all my life. When we got married I took the name, Sue Wiygul Martin, not knowing that I couldn’t.”


“And how long have you been married?”


“Twenty eight years,” I replied.


“Wonderful…” he murmured.


“Well, I see no reason not to grant your petition.” And it was done. Hearing the judge speak those words was like a benediction.


I hadn’t realized how important this was to me. I took the name, Wiygul, as an infant, unknowingly. Now I was taking it in the full knowledge of my adulthood. That was the name on my book and now it was my own true name.

We went into another room so I could have a new ID made. We laughed and joked. I was almost giddy and it was contagious. As soon as we got back in the car I put on the song, Closer to Fine, by The Indigo Girls. It includes the lyrics, “Got my papers and I was free!”


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