I’m not an ogreDecember 18, 2012
This post probably belongs in either the “Some things” post or “Daddy and the Duke,” but because Heather responded to my query for family stories and said this is one of her favorites (one of the least of mine), I think it warrants its own post. Because she has always been so doggoned cute:
No one could have ever suggested that I did not love my stepchildren. I was willing to accept them as my own, and because of that I treated them as if they could have been my own, but only within the reality where their own mother was Mom, and I was Daddy’s wife. With regard to Joe-your-dad and Jenny, however, they were siblings. There were no qualifications of the terms brother and sister—a brother is a brother and a sister is a sister.
Heather was a very giving child, and from her age two we bonded in a way that allows a stepmother to feel as though she is a true partner in the life of a child whose soul caught the attention of all of those who experienced her. That is not to say that she didn’t drive me nuts, sometimes. I am sure I returned the favor and drove her nuts sometimes, too.
I was very sad to lose a close relationship with Heather and Kimberly to the banked embers left after a divorce. I had hoped that would not happen. Sometimes, almost-lost relationships pick up again many years later as this one did, with a story that I probably would not have told because it’s a tiny story, and for me, an embarrassing story. But for Heather, it’s a favorite story (may that VHS tape burn in hell), so I will relate it here.
I never realized how much glasses had become a part of my personality until the danged video camera caught it. Though in those days I still wore contact lenses most of the time, with the family and on camping trips I was likely to skip the contact lens ritual and throw on a pair of over-sized 1980s eyeglasses.
Heather was somewhere between childhood and tween-hood the year that we embarked on a mission to discover the Smoky Mountains. She still clung a bit, as do those children who are not quite ready to fly, but she was ready to take a serious dog-paddle through life. The most recent serious discussion we had had was during a summer weeding session, prompted by some long-ago and forgotten punishment for who knows what forgotten infraction. Strangely enough, Heather’s punishments brought her closer to me: weeding, snapping beans, things I would be doing on my own had she not have been recently naughty. And her naughties were such trivial affairs. Truly.
The weeding session yielded two important pieces of information. Firstly, Heather claimed that Kimberly had stolen her boyfriend, a dashing young lad that lived down the street. My sister and I had dated his uncles an eon before. The family was particularly handsome. As those things do, it worked itself out.
The second important piece of information was that Heather wanted to have braces for her teeth. Kimberly was in her second or third application of braces to correct everything under the sun. The current set of headgear was astonishing with two wires sticking straight out from her chin and then making a near ninety degree turn up into the air. We teased Kimberly, saying she could hang her jammies there when they were not in use. Heather simply wanted equal time—and perhaps she thought that Kimberly’s snazzy headgear was the thing that caught the boy. I promised Heather that she would have her braces as soon as possible. She did get her braces—and only one set was required versus four sets for Kimberly—when she was a teen. She looks beautiful.
So it was within this real stepmother-stepdaughter relationship that we took off to see the Smokies. As vacations went it was typical, except someone was running a danged video camera far more than I would have liked during the whole trip. I didn’t like that video camera very much.
Just after setting up a camping site and cooking area, when the scent of percolating coffee from the Coleman stove wafted into my just-traveled-hundreds-of-miles-with-four-children addled senses, Heather very innocently asked, “Can we get some crayons?”
Oy. I was a grump and responded coldly, “Heather, I am not an ogre; crayons, I think we can handle.” I punctuated my statements with a jab to the center of my eyeglasses, pushing them back on the nose from which they constantly attempted to escape. It went something like this:
“Heather, I am not an ogre. Crayons…”
JAB to eyeglasses.
“…I think we can handle.”
It wasn’t my best moment. Most of the time I tried to do better.
It was all on tape. It IS all on tape. I had fully intended, but somehow forgot, to burn the danged thing along with the videos that contain audio of my raspy, fearful breathing while traveling up hills (mountains, in my mind) and back down into valleys in a car that was far too close to any safety rail, or far too close to the edge of roads sans safety rails. The tapes are no longer in my possession, so to whatever winds of life or fates that take them: please be kind.
I am far from perfect, but I am NOT an ogre. And I have always loved my stepchildren. Still do.
Documenting those vacations: