I’m a creature of habit. I like my coffee in the morning. I like my comfortable jeans. I like to wear the same couple of T-shirts every weekend. I go to the same line in the supermarket with the same cashier. All. The. Time. Tanya is our cashier lady. She knows me and my wife because we come there all the time. She speaks with us personally each time. “Hi Mr Zelaya”… “How’s it going Mr Zelaya”… “You saved 24 cents with your club card Mr Zelaya”. She always does it with a smile. And I always thank her and smile back. Only one problem.. My last name isn’t Zelaya. It’s Wilgoren. But it’s been going on for so long and I’m so comfortable with her saying it, that I’ve never bothered to correct her and truthfully it doesn’t bother me any more. When I go to the grocery store I am Mr Zelaya just like it says on our club card when my wife signed up years ago. You see, Zelaya is HER last name. And now I’ve been adopted.
When my wife and I got engaged years ago, I don’t need to tell you how long ago, but suffice it to say Livin’ La Vida Loca was a top song on the radio, my wife made it perfectly clear: I love you. I’m marrying you. I’m keeping my last name. Done. There wasn’t any discussion about it. There wasn’t any debate about it. It was a statement of fact, a feisty, and fiercely independent declaration from a fiercely independent woman. And so our two name household was born. I’m Wilgoren. She’s Zelaya. And then came the kids. They have the last name Wilgoren. But both girls have a streak of the same fierce independence. And they proudly now refer to themselves as Zelaya- Wilgorens. “We’re Zelaya-Wilgorens right mama?” And mom nods yes with a smile. Sometimes when the kids are annoyed with me, they’ll drop the Wilgoren entirely and just become Zelayas for the afternoon. And you know what, it’s perfectly OK with me.
Which brings me back to the supermarket. My wife signed up for the club card years ago and now it is etched in history: I am Peter Zelaya. Today the cashier was hollering at me from across the store “Mr Zelaya” “Mr Zelaya”… and I didn’t look up right away until I realized she must be yelling at me. And I remembered, oh that’s me, “I AM Peter Zelaya”. At least here I am. I am husband to Gloria, and dad to two great young girls. I am not identified solely by my name and I’m not threatened anymore by the idea that my wife didn’t take mine. And I hope to continue blazing the same trail with my girls instilling in them that sense of independence that my wife has already started.