What’s in a name?


For just over 19 years I signed my name as Mary Iliff. This was the name that I learned in kindergarten.

In elementary school when my classmates were learning to make a looping capital M or L, I was trying to find a way to make a capital I look special.

This is the name that no one could ever spell correctly, much less pronounce.

Iliff. These are the five letters that are on the back of my high school letter jacket. All of my school certificates, report cards, and my high school diploma hold that name.

Iliff is the name of my childhood, of my youth. This is the last name that made me who I am today. It is my foundation.

Those five letters and all they represent were the building blocks of who I would be.

For the second 19 years of my life, I have signed my name Mary Mason. This is the name that I took when I first married in my youth.

These five letters mark all four of my children. They are the stamp of who they are, and where they came from.

Mary Mason was the name of the full-time stay at home mom.

Mary Mason is the name of the mom who sat through pick up lines, was a classroom mom, and baked countless numbers of cookies with the kids.

Mason is the name I signed as I grew into the person that I would ACTUALLY be. It is the name of so much change and growth for me.

All of my college paperwork states the progression of Mary Mason. Every piece of writing that I have ever had published, either in school, online, or professionally, holds that name.

Every acknowledgment and award I have ever received for writing is in the name of Mary Mason.

Mary Mason sued her college over freedom of speech violations.

Mary Mason is a winner of the Stephen Berry Free Press Award.

Mary Mason has served me well.

After the divorce, I decided to keep the name, as it is the name that my children hold. It was the right choice at the time, and one less change for them to deal with.

In 30 days, I will marry the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with (hopefully more than the 19-year increments I am currently dealing with).

I have debated back and forth what to do with my name.

The feminist in me says to keep my name, though it is not really MINE, it is still someone else’s.

The romantic in me says to take the new name.

My fiancé does not care. He says, “I just want to marry you, what you call yourself doesn’t matter.”

This discussion has been going on inside of my head for quite some time, and I am happy to have finally decided what I will do.

No longer running a newspaper and being in the public eye has helped make my decision a little bit easier, and I am happy to say that beginning Cinco de Mayo, I will be going through the process of training my hand to sign a new signature.

Since I believe that each of these names, each of these signatures has played a roll in helping me develop into the person I am supposed to be, I am excited to see who Mary Wheeler will become.

Maybe it is because I am a traditionalist at heart, or maybe it is because like a butterfly, we can’t fully transition into who we are supposed to be until we completely let go of who we were.

Wheeler. What will these seven letters hold for me?

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