Soon after I had made the decision to have a name all my own, I lost my nanny job. The patriarch was busted for drug dealing and was sent to a federal penitentiary somewhere in Nevada. His gorgeous wife, the ex-model, vowed to go to Hawaii with her innocent angel of a son and purge her veins of poison. I never heard from them again.
I moved back home. Unable to find another job, I decided to become an Amway millionaire. I could be seen pedalling my old-fashioned, lady's bicycle from village to village along the West Shore selling pillows and cleaning products from my bike basket. It was a lark but not very successful. Around this time, I decided to return to university, which I thought might improve my employment prospects somewhat. I filled out the application forms as Anne Morddel and sent them off. I cannot recall with certainty, but I think this was my first official use of my new name.
After that, I decided to tell my parents. I made an announcement one evening to my mother that I was changing my name. She poured more Jack Daniel's into her old fashioned and took a gulp.
"To what?" she demanded in her hoarse, smoker's voice.
"Anne Morddel" I smiled. She took another gulp and gave me that stern look some parents have when in that condition.
"Well, I don't care what the hell you call yourself, you'll always be my Annie." She hugged me. Done. Sighs of relief all round.
That night, I wrote to the Social Security office, returning my card:
"Dear Sirs, I have changed my name and want to keep this number. Please send me a new card. " A few weeks later they did. Just like that. It was all so straightforward and easy.
Then, I wrote a cheerful letter to my father, who lived in the Bay Area, to tell him of my delightful new name. Surely, no one was less prepared for a storm of rage than I. A vicious letter, cataloguing all of my sins since the age of two arrived, with my own letter torn to shreds, in an envelope addressed to "Anne Whoever". My, he was cross. I was flabbergasted at his reaction, that he saw it as something negative against him and not as something positive I was doing for myself. An exchange of letters went on for a while.
"What possible difference can it make to you if I have a new surname because I made one up or because of marriage?" I asked. "Either way, I won't be using your name anymore. Why does one upset you but not the other?" He answered with things about tradition and family honour, things that made no sense to a young person in the early 1970s in California. In the end, he threatened to disinherit me if I did not take back his surname.
"Not on your tintype. Go ahead and disinherit me," I wrote. "You haven't got anything not to leave me anyway." I was that kind of daughter.
So he did. He was that kind of father.
©2009 Anne Morddel