Growing up I often questioned if I was the biological daughter of my parents. I’m sure most people think that at some point in their life, but I had good reasons to be suspicious, or so I thought.

I didn’t look anything like my parents. I couldn’t see any resemblance in the shape of their mouth, or the colour of their eyes. I felt out of place in my family, I never really identify with them, and I used to wonder if there was someone out there that looked like me.

When my little brother was born, this uneasy feeling of having been switched at birth became even stronger. My brother and I couldn’t be more different: one is tall, the other is short. One has olive skin, the other pale. One has brown eyes, the other green. The differences are also clear in our personalities. I lost count of how times, in my twenties, my brother was mistakenly confused for my new boyfriend, which just confirmed my insecurity towards my origins.

Then the years passed, I met Diego, and eventually, we got married. That was when I decided to change my maiden name and become a Boccaleone, taking Diego’s name. My parents were less than thrilled with my choice. In Italy, unlike the UK, there is no option of changing your name once married. It’s something to do with the right of privacy or some other very typical Italian nonsense. So, the newly married couple goes on with their new life maintaining their respective family names. But for me, that was the perfect excuse to cut free from a family name that never really represent who I was, and that never did.

For about 15 years now, I’ve been a Boccaleone, Mrs Laura Boccaleone. When our son Ben arrived to live with us, I was immensely proud of being able to give him our family name. That name was my promise to Ben of a forever family, our forever family together.

Soon, I might have to reverse to my old maiden name. A name that was never truly mine, a name that I haven’t used in a very long time, a name that doesn’t reflect me, nor my family.

I know very well that Ben, Diego and I are not kept together by a name, but I have an irrational fear that once I won’t be a Boccaleone anymore, our family will grow apart.

I see our last name as the heart of our family, that one thing we all have in common. We don’t have genetics on our side, we haven’t been always together, we all have a past that doesn’t include the others. Boccalone is where we came to be as one.

My son will grow up and it’s possible he will feel like I felt all my life in respect of my parents. He might struggle to feel truly part of our family, and he will have a million questions. This is what I’d like him to know:

Dear Ben, we became truly a family the day you arrived to live with us. I might not be your only mum, and I’ll never hide that from you, but you will always be my only son.

You belong to our family because you have made it one. Go out, explore who you are and where you came from, in the knowledge that you will always have a place to call home, somewhere to return to, and a family that you will always be able to call your own.

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