Coming Home: Holding on to family name importantMy name is Jessica Blain Veeder Scofield. I know it’s a lot. A lot of syllables and a lot to explain when I’m signing up to renew my driver’s license, booking a flight or signing my life away on a bank loan.
By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM
My name is Jessica Blain Veeder Scofield.
I know it’s a lot. A lot of syllables and a lot to explain when I’m signing up to renew my driver’s license, booking a flight or signing my life away on a bank loan.
No, it’s not hyphenated. Scofield is my last name. So is Veeder.
I’ve got two last names. It’s weird I know (awkward laugh). I’ve kept my maiden name because … well, never mind. Anyway, I’ll just write them both in the “last name” box and you can figure out where to go from there.
And the confusion over my unconventional last name choice doesn’t stop at filling out forms. Introducing myself as Jessie Scofield while looking quite a bit like a woman they saw sing somewhere named Jessie Veeder also warrants some explaining.
Yes, we are the same person.
And yes, it’s confusing.
Now, keeping my maiden name in the equation was not an attempt to make a big feminist statement about marriage, although I have endured a few “oh, you’re one of those,” judgments throughout the years.
No, my discussions with my husband about my refusal to eliminate the “Veeder” from my title weren’t about my unwillingness to join forces with the Scofields, but entirely about my fervent need to hold on to my identity as a Veeder and all of the weight the name has carried through the generations and in my own life spent with the label.
See, since I was a little girl, I understood that my sisters, my cousins and I would be the last of the Veeders. That’s what happens when the only two sons in a family have daughters and only daughters. I would drive by the sign at the approach of the ranch that says “Veeders” and couldn’t help but think that it wouldn’t be true forever while wondering how I might hang on.
Because, even as a young girl, I held pride in my name. Being a Veeder meant I belonged to a family with a long and interesting history of sacrifice and hard work that made it possible for me to slide down every gumbo hill within sight of the red barn built by my great grandfather. Being a Veeder meant I was forever linked with the people not only connected to the landscape, but known by our neighbors as “good” and “honest” and “a heck of a cowboy.”
And then the name became a part of me and the music I made, the roads I traveled and the work I put into trying to make people remember the gangly girl with a guitar who sings about a home in place called North Dakota.
Maybe it’s a bit selfish, but I didn’t want to give up a name that linked me to the people and landscape I admired, the words I wrote about it and the woman I was becoming under the title.
No matter the rationale, changing my name felt to me like unnecessary abandonment of an important piece of who I was.
And so I explained this sentiment to my husband-to-be, and he explained why it was so important to him that I become a Scofield.
Among the argument about tradition and how we might confuse society and our unborn children was a common ground we both believed in.
Sharing a name identifies us as family and shows the world we’re united.
Turns out his argument became my argument.
Because as much as I held pride in my name, he held the same in his own. To share a name meant that together we could start to lay the groundwork for our lives and whomever we might add to it in the coming years.
And despite my best efforts, this man wasn’t changing his name to Veeder.
I guess some traditions die hard.
And so, even though it doesn’t solve the issue of the impending extinction of the name, I decided to continue a tradition of my own, one started by my grandmother, Edith Evangeline Delores Linseth Veeder.
If that woman could pull off five names, I can certainly move through this world hanging on to and awkwardly explaining my four.
To me it is.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.