Hey Little Bit,
Sharing this weekend with you and being present for you changing your name was so incredibly powerful and healing for me. While you didn’t make this decision for me or anyone other than you, I see it as such an intense act of love and loyalty. I can only speak for myself below, but I wanted to recognize how much your decision has impacted me and how proud I am to have you in my life and my family.
Our past is not as seamless and connected as I would have preferred for it to be. I left for college in 2004, didn’t look back, and rarely called or visited. I made sure I had alternative plans for school breaks and holidays. Being 11, all of this made zero sense to you and, as you’ve told me, felt very much like abandonment. You did not know about the emotional and psychological trauma I was carrying, or how your birth father’s continued alcoholism made me worry that the years of sexual abuse I had experienced would reoccur. You didn’t know that being so far away for college was the first time in years my body and mind were able to relax and feel safe. You only understood what you saw: your sister flew hundreds of miles away and never thought of you nor wanted to be a part of your life.
I want you to know that I thought of you every day. I thought of the time, milestones, laughter, and tears of your life that I was missing. I thought of the stories, lessons, and adventures that I wanted to share with you from my time in college and life in DC. I frequently asked about you when I talked with Mom and desperately tried to retain the names of friends I had never met and how they were influencing your life. When you joined social media sites, I followed your activity and scrolled back through posts and pictures I had already seen. It wasn’t much nor was it good enough but it was what I could do.
When people ask what I enjoy most about moving back to Boston, one thing I always tell them is that I have the opportunity to reconnect with you and see the amazing person that you’ve turned into. Without much influence from me, you constantly question the world around you, have incredible and diverse friends, speak your mind, and are one of the most emotional and loyal people I ever met. You took some of the same paths that I did but for the most part have carved this rich life that is completely unique to you. I’m so glad that I can be more of a stable part of your life and everything that comes with that now.
Names are so much more than letters strung together for me. They’re a description of where you’ve been and who you are connected to. I kept Lantz when I got married because of the connections it had to our mother and grandparents and because of the triumphs and challenges that I had with that name. I cherished growing up with this name, knowing where it came from, and creating my own experiences with it. I never plan to part with it.
Changing your name doesn’t make you a bigger part of this family—you’ve been a part of it every day of your life. However, the importance of it cannot and should not be understated, swept aside, or diminished. It is an active step that requires both logistical and emotional work on your end. You submitted paperwork to a court of law saying that your name doesn’t reflect how you see yourself and who you are connected to. You have held your name for over two decades; it’s how people have referred to you and countless formal and informal records are connected to it. Correcting these records and people will take continuous time and effort on your part. This decision is about claiming a name you want but also about distancing yourself from a name and individual you don’t want to be connected to anymore. I know that challenging yourself to think about what that name meant for you and others, arriving at, and coming to terms with this decision wasn’t easy. It’s not something that everyone can do and I am in awe of your courage and composure throughout this process. Know that navigating these changes and people’s perceptions will be overwhelmingly positive but that sometimes it will be more challenging as people may demand justifications or answers.
Always remember that you get to decide how much you tell people about why you are changing your name. You can share as much or as little detail depending on the person or the moment. What’s amazing is that, just as the name is yours, the story and journey are as well. The importance of it, the decision, the reasoning, the history –these are all yours and yours alone. I am confident that you’ll be able to navigate these situations and that you’ll ask for support when need be.
Changing your name deserves celebration this year and in the years to come. Congratulations on declaring a piece of yourself that you’ve always had and making it legal. Congratulations on demanding other people to see you as you see yourself and to respect the choices that you made. Thank you for letting me be a part of that moment and the joy that came along with it.
We enjoyed a celebratory chocolate milk and second breakfast at Peaches after you changed your name and you reflected on the last time that you and I were there together. I am so thankful that you brought that moment to my attention so that I could see how far we’d come in just a few years. Hearing that I had decided to cut ties from the house and family events must have been incredibly difficult. I know I explained that I had to put myself first, that I needed to feel safe, and that I couldn’t pretend things were normal when they weren’t. But still, you didn’t know any of the specific history or experiences that I was referencing. Having that conversation with you was one of the most difficult and heartbreaking things I have done in my entire life; perhaps only second to the letter I had handed to Mom the night prior. Up to that point, I lied to myself about how I was still being a sister to you and staying semi-involved in your life. And while I told you that I would be there for you, I didn’t have any real solutions for how we were going to stay connected. I can’t imagine what it felt like to hear and accept that, and to not understand why it was happening. I only know how truly awful it felt for me. I’m sorry. I’m glad we had the chance to sit at Peaches again this weekend (at almost the same table) in a much different atmosphere and to radiate love, smiles, excitement, and the knowledge of how big a moment this was for each of us as individuals, as sisters, and as a family.
You handled every shift and change with strength even though you never had a complete nor accurate picture of what was happening. Now that I look back, I realize how much you took on love and faith rather than demanding answers that you knew wouldn’t be given. I wish I had the amount of trust and faith in you that you had in me during that time. Perhaps I would have known more about the impacts on you, been open with you sooner, or found alternate ways to stay in touch and communicate that my actions and disappearance had nothing to do with you. I failed you in a lot of ways while you were growing up. I’m sorry about that, more than you will ever know. I can’t go back and change the way that any of this unfolded or made you feel, although I wish I could. Thank you for both allowing me the time I needed and for welcoming me back into your life.
I’m so incredibly proud, honored, and grateful to be your sister. Thank you for doing what is best for you. Thank you for recognizing how incredibly important this change is for me and my experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing a name that is so valuable and strong with you. At last.
I love you more than words can say.