In High School there were so many “Jennifers” that I don’t think anyone really ever called me that. All of my friends, and I mean all of them, called me “Ellis.” Except Lauren. She’s always called me “Jen”. I like that. Even the boyfriends I had called me “Ellis”. I liked it. I loved it. I love that name. My sister named her first born “Ellis”. Its a good name. Simple. But with a lot of history. There are no more Ellis’. My brother was the last. He doesn’t plan to have children so that last name (at least in our family) will end.
In 1997 I went in to do my paperwork after I got married. I got a new social security card and they gave me the opportunity to choose my name. I chose to drop my birth name of “Jennifer Renee Ellis” and legally change my name to “Jennifer Ellis Nugent”. I wanted to take my husband’s name but my heart could not let go of “Ellis.”
And tomorrow I have to make another decision about my name. Legal papers have to be signed. I have to decide what my name will be. Legally. And its eating up my insides. For 20+ years I’ve been Jennifer Nugent. For almost as long as I was Jennifer Ellis, Ive been Jennifer Nugent.  Its my kids’ last name. It has a history. It means a lot to me. 20 years of idiots asking me “are you related to Ted?” Twenty years of identity. Twenty years of seeing it in writing, of practicing writing it before we married, twenty years of seeing it, being it, being her, being 1 of 2. Then 1 of 4. And you can see pictures on social media and my happiness and my smile now….but KNOW that the mourning and the grief are real. And hurt. And I hurt.
And its “just a name”. And most women keep the married name for the kids. And as I need to decide in less that 24 hours….I sit here completely unsure of what I’ll do. My heart is broken. It may not look like it. But rest assured it is. For what might’ve been. For who I was. For who I lost. For a name, that if I choose not to write, is suddenly gone. Can it be THAT simple?
I have a tattoo on my wrist of an “E” written in my Dad’s handwriting. Its for “Ellis”. I got it few years after he died. To remember. But I didn’t need a tattoo to remember him. Or who I was. Or who I am. Or what being an Ellis means. And I know I don’t need a legal piece of paper to tell me who I am. I don’t need a name to define me. But the symbolism of it all is real. And whatever I decide tomorrow I will remember my second Mom, Lynda’s words: “You make the right decision in the moment for who and what you are right then. Dont regret the decisions you make. You do the best you can in the moment you are in.”
I am Jenny. I am Jennifer. I am Jen. I am Jennifer Renee Ellis. I am Ellis. I am Jennifer Ellis Nugent. And nothing will ever change any of that. Ever. I am all of her. And always will be.
Here’s to grace and forgiveness in decisions.

1 thought on “WHAT’S IN A NAME

  1. My heart goes out to you as you wrestle with yet another decision…It’s a real decision and one not to be taken lightly. Somehow men don’t have that decision when these things happen….they just go on their way with the same name. Women or significant others have to “adapt” and “become.” Then guilt over the slightest decision when life shifts. I will be curious to see what you decide…but whatever it is, it will be the right decision and I hope your children will understand how much you wrestled with the right decision for you! ❤

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