My name isn’t Alesya Opelt anymore. My married name is Alesya Macatol, but I continue to use Alesya Opelt professionally. People always assume it’s for because I’m a feminist. I just let them think that.
That’s not the real reason.
During the first day of my sophomore high school English class imposing teacher Tom Pryor conducted roll call. After each name he checked us off and quickly moved on.
I raised my hand. Mr. Pryor paused and looked at me. A 15-year-old’s worse nightmare – extra attention from a teacher.
“Opelt, Opelt, Opelt…” he repeated as he rubbed his chin in thought. “Are you related to Cindy Opelt?”
“Yes,” I nodded trying to say as little as possible.
Mr. Pryor smiled, “And how are you related?”
“She’s my mother.” I responded. The whole class laughed. I wondered if I had something on my shirt.
“It doesn’t seem like Cindy is old enough to have someone your age.” Mr. Pryor questioned. I shrugged.
After class I asked my friends Lisa and Susan, “Why did everyone laugh at me?”
“Normally, when you are asked you how you related to someone the answer is your aunt or cousin or something that. It’s surprising that it was your mom,” Lisa explained. Susan nodded in agreement.
“Oooohhhh,” I replied. No wonder I didn’t get the joke. It wasn’t surprising to me.
Growing up in a small town this happened all the time. I had an unusual last name and only my immediate family lived within 100 miles. Every time I’d introduce myself to an adult the response would always come back something like “Your father Larry and I play golf together,” or “Of course you are! You talk just like Cindy,” or “Your dad and I have worked together for twenty years.”
Each time it happened I beamed.
I was so proud when someone figured out I was my parent’s daughter. My dad is smart, sharp and honest. My mom is stylish, confident and shares my exact sense of humor. They are both hard working and trustworthy with never hair out of place. I’ve always felt like it gave me instant credibility when someone knew I was their daughter.
When I got married my only worry was that no one would realize I was the Opelt’s daughter anymore. Silly, I know. But I loved my last name. Not because it signified that I was an my own person, but because it means I am Cindy and Larry’s person. I use Opelt professionally because I never wanted to lose that distinction. My parents are such good people. It’s an honor to be associated with them.
Today is my parents 40th wedding anniversary. In those forty years they’ve done a lot. They had successful careers, earned degrees, built a house, traveled, raised two daughters and welcomed two granddaughters. But their biggest accomplishment is having a happy marriage for the last four decades. Growing up it gave me and my sister a solid base to navigate the trials of childhood. Now it gives us a life to which we can aspire.
Living several states away from my hometown, no one asks me if I’m Larry and Cindy’s daughter when I introduce myself. It doesn’t stop me from wishing that they would. It’s now more likely that they ask me if I’m Maribelle or Dorothy’s mom. And that’s pretty good too.
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I love you both very much. Thank you for being the ultimate role models. ~A