My family name is also a highway exit.
I love my surname, Soto. It is short, simple to write and easy to pronounce. So much so that even the least-qualified barista for Starbucks letters and tongues pronounces my surname to perfection every time my coffee is ready.
I can not say the same about my name, Iran, I say Hernan, sorry, I mean Ivan, I mean, Harim ... Well, you understand me. meaning of names since a good friend told me that he intended to change his paternal last name by his mother's name.
It turns out that, because of the sexist rules of our society, his maternal surname is at risk of disappearing because there is no other male in the family who gives continuity. He is about to have his first son, and to change his surname, his son could be the person who relives the surname.
There is something very noble about inheriting a surname, passing it from generation to generation, as if was an object in a relay race. It might be fascinating to imagine that a great-grandson one day unpacks a box inside the oldest trunk of the house, stored in the darkest corner of the basement and is found with photos and documents of ancestors with the same surname. Maybe they will come up with one's name, and ask someone if they ever knew us, how we were, what we thought, what we did with our life.
Some time ago, though, I started questioning the bond between surnames and legacies. Partly because I am the father of three daughters, and I know that the surname Soto will sooner or later disappear from his family lineage. They, when they marry, will surely end up giving continuity to other surnames like Smith, Sadowsky or Sanchez.
I could say that it changed the trajectory of our family, because music is an indispensable part of our lives. My older brother, for example, is the concertmaster of the Baja California Orchestra. I, for my part, I hang my guitar almost daily and I play two or three songs in open lung, as if I really wanted to earn my tip. My daughters, by the way, are in music classes.
Once I became a father I discovered that more than the surname, our true legacy is in the values we pass on to our children and in the good ones habits that we help them to cultivate. Our legacy is passed from moment to moment; in the way we treat them, if we have patience or if we lose our heads, if we speak to them beaten or softly, if we discipline them or let them do what they want, if we instill a love for the arts, a desire to overcome both academic as personal.
At the end of the day, they will find couples with those same types of values with whom they will seek to form a family. In the same way we treat them, they will treat our grandchildren, and the circle repeats itself with grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.
Perhaps one of these great-grandchildren will one day get a box inside the oldest trunk of the house, kept in the darkest corner of the basement, and find photos and documents of his ancestors, a guy named Iran, Hernan, Ivan, Harim or Hiram or something. He may be entertained for a few minutes, but by then none of that will matter. Maybe when he finishes he will go upstairs and go to his room, where he will take out his instrument and practice, even for a few moments.