Saturday, March 2, 2013


Now Playing -  Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

Life -  
 When I was growing up, I hated my last name. Despised it. Every thing about it. Not to go into history too much, I was raised by my mom, my parents divorcing when I was two, before my brother was born. I grew up raised by my mom and, as she worked two jobs and went to school to support us, I was raised by my family and friends. I'm the person I am today because of the network of wonderful people that surrounded me in my youth.

The thing that didn't surround me was my last name: Cowell. I saw my dad a few times over the course of my childhood, I remember a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken and him buying me a G.I.Joe figure. I did see extended family members on a more regular basis, primary amongst was staying at "Great Mac's" in the summers. My Great Grandma McClanahan lived in a cozy house on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. We didn't do anything as world changing as spending entire summers there, but to my youthful memories, the visits there seemed lengthy and wonderful. I climbed trees, visited the zoo, tracked giant snails in the lush gardens by their slimy trails, enacted great medieval battles with small plastic knights in the dark living room and sat outside in the evenings reading.

I've never been very good at remembering specifics of my childhood, it's all a kind of foggy reminisces with moments of clarity. I know I had other family members that lived in the house and cycled in over the course of the time there and that was the bulk of experience I had with my father's family.

Despite having generally pleasant memories of that side of my family, that was not the story with my last name. Life was hard growing up, we were always short on money and somehow, every time I heard my last name aloud, it reminded me of the negatives of my childhood, the long nights sick because I'd lost our last food stamps or hearing my mom upset about trying to pay bills, how child support would never be there when we needed it.  Cowell was the harbinger of difficult times

Also, being quite large and having a name that started with the word cow in junior high was not a pleasant thing. Nor was being associated with Simon Cowell a few years later.

So I started thinking about changing my name. My first, most obvious answer was to go with my mom's family name, Marley.  I love  my family's name. love it. I mean, when you think of Marley, what do you think of? Probably either Bob Marley or the ghost in A Christmas Carol. Either is a perfectly acceptable answer. I also think of all of the people I grew up with, that helped raise me. It would be an alternative I could live with.

But it seemed wrong, somehow. Despite being a fully integrated member of the Marley clan, I never really fit in either. I was always the chubby kid in the corner reading while the family watched hunting videos or sports. There has never been a moment of my life that I didn't feel like a member of the family, but I never felt like a Marley. To change my name to that would almost seem like I was forcing myself into the niche.

Alternatives were needed. An alternative that fit me, worked with my name and still, somehow fit my heritage. Sure, I could choose a random name instead, Kristopher Neal Keymaster would be pretty sweet. But c'mon, do most people that choose a nonsensical name just because they've always liked it, or because it's awesome, stay happy with it? I wonder. Then one day, my brother and I were talking and we lit upon the name McClanahan. It clicked for me. It's a little goofy, a little pretentious, a little unusual. And I loved it. The name pays homage to my father's side of the family without the negative connotations that came from Cowell.

And lets be frank, if you're going to go to the time and expense of changing your name, choosing one that you think sounds a little cool is a good idea. So Kristopher Neal McClanahan it was.

But years passed. I stayed Cowell, mostly due to apathy. I met a wonderful girl, we decided to get married. We didn't want her to take the name Cowell and then change it later, so for the first time, we seriously looked into changing my name. In Idaho, to change it, you have to file a request, talk to a judge, post it in the newspaper, then it's approved. The problem is that each of those steps, especially what the paper was charging was outrageous. When all was said and done, it would have cost us nearly $3000 for the two of us.

Lindsay kept her name when we married, and we planned to get things taken care of.... someday.

Well, now is the time. After a fellow worker changed her name, we started looking into the procedure again, out here in Maine. It is so much cheaper and easier, it was almost ludicrous that we'd not done it sooner. We had to request an updated birth certificate and fill out some paperwork and all told, it would be about $341 for both of us.

So much has changed for us in the last few years. We moved to Maine, published novels, started a shop that would eventually allow me to walk away from Walgreens after ten years. Our future is still uncertain - we'd still like to own a little motel on the west coast and write novels in the office while we watch the ocean. It's exciting and scary and like most things, it will have to evolve along the way, but yesterday, our name change officially went out to the world. In a few weeks it will be official. Wherever our path heads, we're going that way as Mr. and Mrs. McClanahan.

I think it's pretty awesome.

“What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?'
'Cats don't have names,' it said.
'No?' said Coraline.
'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline 


1 comment:

randymeiss said...

Pretty Awesome indeed!! Congratulations on the name change. A fine and noble choice. I look forward to seeing it on some published novels one day.

P.S. Love the song du jour! You really can't go wrong with Journey.