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…By Any Other Name

HOST INTRO: We often look to our names to tell us more about ourselves. In this commentary reporter Stephanie Horton discovers what it means to find a purpose in the letters that spell out who she is. (10.3)

Every time I write my name I tell a lie. My signature is my initials – SH. It’s the exact same signature as my dad. He’s very particular. He only uses a blue fountain pen but his name is also a lie. He’s not related to anyone named Horton. And that means neither am I.

My dad was the oldest of seven boys. His dad, Ralph Horton wasn’t really his dad. His biological father ran off when my dad was a baby and his mom never thought to mention it to him when he got older.

Ralph Horton once tried to feed my grandma gasoline in a soda can to cause a miscarriage. So yeah, pretty gross. When my dad was eight, the man he knew as his father died. My dad doesn’t remember feeling sad. He remembers trying to hide a smile while the casket was lowered into the ground. He said that made him feel like a monster.

He left home as soon as he turned 18 to study Engineering and took the Horton name with him.

Growing up I had a best friend growing up named Emily Gold. I loved her name. Solid and fluid at the same time. So beautiful you could almost hear it shine. She would talk about going to her grandmother’s house on Sundays to help her pipe fluffy, white frosting on cakes. I never had stories like that so instead I would offer to braid her straight, auburn hair as she kept talking.

I imagined having grandparents who would sit tell me stories about their idyllic childhoods, helping me ice beautiful cakes as they complained about how much I take everything for granted.

Emily Gold didn’t have that much hair so before long I would regretfully leave our one-sided conversations and head back to the Horton household.

The name of my family felt shameful. A short, dull, dingy history with nothing to be proud of. I wanted to be done with it.

I couldn’t take my mom’s name. Her past was just as troubling. No point in trading one lousy name for another.

So one day when I was 10 years old and sporting fuzzy princess pajamas I marched up to my dad and told him “I want to change my name”. He glanced up from the paper. His wire glasses were almost dangling from his nose. He asked why.

“Because I’m not really related to anyone named Horton”

He said “You’re related to me.” He raised his paper slightly to keep reading.

Well that was that. I walked away. My dad spent his Saturdays teaching me his secret pancake recipe and taking me to book sales so we could spend Sundays reading dusty books side by side on the couch. I challenge you to think of a more perfect weekend. I realized My parents had taken their lineage into their own hands. That’s the Horton way. At least it is now.

Since then I’ve always signed signing my name like my dad. Same initials. Same style. But no blue fountain pen. HOST OUTRO: Stephanie Horton is thinking about changing her signature now that she has talked about it at length. You can check out some heartwarming Horton family photos on


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