I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Generations of Stewarts

Norma Jean (then and now), Allison, Lexie, me
This picture was taken last February when I was in Florida visiting Norma Jean. I wrote a post on my other blog about it here, but today I am thinking about my family and how the Stewart name is being carried on. We are all Stewarts in this picture.

I woke several times during the night wondering what I would post about this morning, thinking of how the "Sunday morning meditation" has morphed into a Sunday morning obligation. I set these things up for myself. Somehow I am a happier person when I have deadlines to meet. Probably I developed that set of muscles during my working years, I don't know, but it's definitely a part of me now. It's just after 5:00am, hot tea beside me, my partner sleeping; the birds are singing outside the window and a rooster is crowing in the distance. The stage is set, and now I write.

My father wanted a boy when I was growing up. Although he had three girls, he still wished for a boy, and when I was sixteen, my brother was born. His birth was followed in quick succession by three more babies, one a year. All girls. My youngest sister is almost exactly twenty years younger than me, and she and I will both have "big" birthdays this fall: she turns fifty, and I turn seventy. Mama was 39 when Fia was born, and 19 when she had me.

I don't know exactly why it was so important for Daddy to have a boy, being a girl and obviously a disappointment to him, I didn't even question it back then. It's very different these days. I myself had two sons, and I wished for a daughter because I knew girls much better than I knew boys, but I loved both my sons, even if I didn't get to dress them in frills and dresses. Was it to carry on the family name? Well, in that case, Daddy was a complete success, because we are all Stewarts in this picture: Norma Jean and her husband Pete changed their name legally to Stewart, as Pete's name (Polish) was constantly being mangled. Once they decided to do it, both of their children also became Stewarts. It's hard for me to even think of them as being other than Stewarts. When Pete died, the paperwork with the name change came up, and I saw the problem: it was misspelled in the process and caused some delays in getting everything legally transferred to Norma Jean.

Allison and Peter, their children, are Stewarts. I changed my name back to Stewart after years of taking on other men's names in marriages that failed. When Smart Guy and I married at fifty, there was simply no question of whether I would take his name. Why in the world would I? We would have no children, we were both established in our lives with the names we had. The world had moved on since the sixties, and many women don't change their names when they marry, and many couples don't even bother with the legalities at all and stay together but single.

Allison is a Lt. Colonel in the Army, a career woman who is not married, and she realized that if she was going to have a child, it would need to be soon. She decided to go the IVF route, using donor sperm, and little Lexie is the result. Today she is a beautiful little toddler, the apple of her mother's eye, and she will be raised without any father at all. She is very social and enjoys her days at the Day Care Center where she has become everyone's favorite. Lexie is also a Stewart. She has begun to develop a look that is all her own, but since we know little about one side of her genetic makeup, I wonder if she favors him at all. I know that Allison is very smart and has a gift for mathematics, and she chose a donor who also has math capabilities. Lexie is likely to have that trait as well.

A few years ago, CBS featured a program about sperm donor siblings and the new kinds of family ties that have formed because of people wanting to know about other relatives. Allison arranged to give Lexie the opportunity, when she comes of age, to find out about the donor. It is amazing to me to learn that more than 30,000 children are born in the United States every year from anonymous donor sperm. Yes, life has definitely changed in the years since Daddy was wishing for a boy to carry on his family name.

Life throws a curve ball every now and then. Because both of my sons died, I will not be carrying on the family name myself, but my sister, whose husband took her name, has two children who do. And the one female in the equation had a child who carries the Stewart name. Even though I have no living children, I have a very large family, with five siblings who all have children, and some of those children are busy having offspring of their own. Mama and Daddy would be proud.

It's time to post this and start the rest of my day. It has been very wet; yesterday it poured, raining much harder than I am accustomed to in this part of the country. I checked the garden, everything survived the onslaught, but I am still hoping for a break in the weather so I can get in a few jumps. It's now been three weeks since I was last able to make a skydive. I'll check the weather and if there is any chance at all, I'll head south to Snohomish to play in the air.


Bragger said...

I wish I had kept my maiden name, Williams. But I changed it the first two times I married, and I was afraid Hubby would resent it if I didn't take HIS name when we married. And he probably would have then, but ironically 15 years later I think he would be okay with it. My sister's divorce was just final (after a six-year separation), and I'm a tad jealous that she got our maiden name back. I think I'll post about this tonight. Thanks for the topic! You seem to do that a lot here lately. :)

P.S. Hot and dry here. We could use some of that rain.

Trish said...

My maiden name was mangled so many times (Janeshutz) that I was delighted to become a MacGregor. But I still keep the name legally, as my middle name! Love the photo of you all.

Anonymous said...

When I was a single mother, my daughter and I carried my maiden name. I got tired of people calling me MRS. CHUNG. I was so happy to marry David and become known as MRS HINCHEY. And when we changed Maria's last name from Chung to Hinchey after David adopted her, that was a joyous occasion also. I just like being married and "belonging" to a guy. Which reminds me: I must have my wedding ring sized so I can wear it. Lol. However, to let people know I am not Caucasian, I always include my maiden name as my MIDDLE name on legal docs and my books and articles.

Friko said...

I hope your wish for sky-diving weather has come true.

I changed my name back to my maiden name by deed poll when I got divorced and when I married my current husband (who will be my last) I added his to mine with a hyphen, so I am now officially a hyphenated person.

In Germany most women do this, it no longer matters whose surname they have; as in your family, men take their wives' name sometimes, whichever is the most convenient. I rather like it when both partners have both.

Rubye Jack said...

When I got divorced it seemed silly to me to keep my married name. Nowadays if I was to marry I would never take another person's name. Why?

Mel said...

I'm so glad you make a ritual of the Sunday posts, as they are are among my favorite Sunday activities, right up there with Post Secrets and the Sunday paper.

My mom and her sister were the son's my grandfather didn't have. Big deal when you are a farmer. The Hickman name is gone now, and that makes me a little sad. He was a gem. My father was one of the last male MacVeigh's in our clan, my brother has no children. Luckily, my fiercely independent female cousins kept their maiden name and there are children in the world who carry the genes and the name. I'm not sure why it matters, but somehow it does. So much so that I changed my middle name to MacVeigh just to hold on to it a little longer. Strange the power words have over us, isn't it?

We have a dear family friend whose second marriage to an amazing man resulted in them both taking each other's last names, hyphenated. I like that sense of equality.

Your family photo is lovely, you all have the same smile and eyes.

Wishing you a wonderful week, and good skydiving weather.

Rita said...

I kept my married name so I'd have the same last name as Dagan. There are plenty enough Johnsons around, anyways, and we have quite a few boys in the family to carry on the name. But the generation after me has been hesitant to reproduce. From us three kids, out of the six children (four sons and two daughters, all but one are married) but only one has had a child--the youngest son! And he has another one on the way in July. So just because you have kids, it doesn't even follow that they will choose to reproduce these days--LOL! Times have changed a lot. They get married later and decided to have kids later or not at all. But it's not a bad thing.

I love the family photo of all you girls! I didn't realize your family was kind of split in half like it was with that big gap. Fun to learn more about you.

I hope it quit raining for you. It has over here for a while, they say. Fingers crossed. :)

Red said...

I have difficulty in getting terribly excited over the family name and carrying on. I come from large family. It gets larger all the time. It's not if it will die out. So I have difficulty in understanding the importance of my contribution. Not that I would demean anybody else's desire or concern in the perpetuation of the line.

Gigi said...

I never even thought about keeping my plain, old vanilla maiden name. I just jumped right into having that long, vowel-laden Italian name.

But the last time I went to have my license renewed, I explained that they made a mistake on my license; because they'd used my maiden name in place of my middle name. They explained that's the way they do it now. It's kinda nice to have my maiden name back.

I adore that picture of you and your family!

Sally Wessely said...

First of all, I just must say that I love the photo of you and the other Stewarts. They are all stalwarts in my opinion, women to be greatly admired.

This was a very interesting post. I know how important the family name has been in my family. We have many males to carry it on. I think that we as females really get lost in the shuffle sometimes. I hate that I changed my name twice. It I had it all to do over again, I would never have changed my name when I married the second time except to change it back to my maiden name.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I wonder if any other generations in the past experienced as many changes as people born in the twentieth century. So many changes in technology and also in social issues--as you point out. A strange and wonderful and sometimes scary time to live. And yet, a blessing in so many numerous ways. Peace.

Arkansas Patti said...

Very interesting post. Many women today are not taking the man's name. What an interesting break with tradition. Wish it had been around in my day.
My brother said recently how he will probably be the last to carry the family name. His only son is approaching 50 and has yet to make a commitment of any sort.
Rather a sad ending to an interesting lineage. So glad your name will continue.

Linda Myers said...

My stepdaughter is getting married in October. She has been Myers since she was born and "that's my name". How lovely that it's okay to do that.

When I married for the second time I took my husband's name - Myers - and replaced my original middle name (Louise) with my first husband's last name - Granholm- it's important to my sons, I think, that we have that in common.

Don't miss my maiden name - Horner - at all.

Patricia Lichen said...

Ah, you've hit a great topic--looks like we all have a story to tell about the keeping and jettisoning of names!

Mine is that my husband-to-be and I chose a new last name together, which our daughter now shares. (It's an interesting experience to choose your own name--what if this was something regularly done in our society? You know, who are you?) When he became my exhusband, he returned to his former name, and my daughter and I kept our chosen name.

Stella Jones said...

With social networking so prominent in our lives today, taking on a husband's name prevents us from finding our girl-friends from years ago. I have several friends from school days who I would love to get in touch with, but no chance because I'm sure they all got married, at least once!
Very interesting post D-Jan. Lovely to see Lexie again.