I was five months shy of my thirty fourth birthday when my step daughter committed a most heinous act against my person. I had been married to her father just over a year, she was living with her mother and though we saw each other little, we were always warm and cordial. Her parent’s divorce had been rough and siblings had been torn from each other, I was naturally much closer to her brother that lived with us but I loved her none the less. I could not understand her betrayal.
At the time it happened I was screaming for empathy. Would someone please, please take my side in this travesty? Could anyone possibly understand the ramifications of what that nineteen year old girl had done to me? I knew in some ways it was a cultural thing, a life in the South verses life as I had known it in the North. But it was wrong, very wrong, and no one could see it but me. In the audacity of her youth she had made me, at thirty three years old, one generation removed from the newest member of our family. She had given birth. She had made me the G word.
Just fourteen months later she did it again. Thank God she had her tubes tied or there would have been be no telling how many times she would have done that to me. Sure, they were cute; a girl and a boy. I spent many hours practicing my baby whisperer skills on them. If you have a child that will not go to sleep, hand them over to me. For some reason, babies and small children fall asleep in my arms quite readily. I usually tell people it’s my ample bosom acting as a live pillow, but I really think I just bore them to sleep. I can sing All the Pretty Little Horses in a flat monotone for hours.
My toughest case to date: my youngest nephew Harrison. He is the family’s only red head; a stubborn, willful child that fought sleep as hard as I rocked. I wish I had kept score for posterity but I believe I won most of the battles with Harrison and the sandman. I rocked him to age five. I’d probably still be holding his wiry, tense little body close to mine but his mother and I don’t speak anymore. Not since she sided with my Husband and told everyone that would listen about my egotistical, stupid attachment to the Boy. She washed out of my life in January and with her went her two boys and my mother. There’s a much larger story here, but I’m not sure it’s mine to tell.
Aside from performing as baby whisperer, having another generation gave me reason to start sewing again. Halloween, of course, with its Indian, clown and pilgrim costumes and pretty little dresses with smocking made for school and special occasions. In my eyes I was ridiculously young to be cast in that role but I endured. The only thing that saved my step daughter from a lifetime of scornful glances and derision from me was the fact that she gave birth to the two smartest children in the world. Never once in the past sixteen years have either one of them used the G word. Nor did they make up hideous countrified names such as Me-maw or Nan-Nan. They simply called me by my first name. If they were feeling possessive, they added my. Those are some smart kids.
The reason for this story: they are also being torn from me. Last summer, when I was falling in love their family was falling apart. By September, my son in law had moved out and moved on. They were a family in crisis and I was useless to them because my world was crumbling at an amazing rate. Truth be told, I had hardly seen them in the past few years even though they lived just a county away. There was strain in their house and strain in ours and it just didn’t make for happy times.
They have decided to move back to Georgia, a good ten hour ride from here. As sad as that is for me, I completely understand her reasons for going. She longs for home, for the place she comes from, for the extended family that is her blood. I can only hope that they find peace there. Sadly enough, that leaves my Husband with no one here but an estranged wife, two nearly dead dogs and a step daughter he doesn’t understand. Part of me wishes he would go back to Georgia with her. I think he would have been happier with a Georgia girl, I think this Yankee girl just couldn’t ever be called Me-maw, couldn’t ever be the wife he wanted.
I have to say that I was extremely close to my son in law. He was very young when he joined our family, just eighteen, and I became a mother to him also. Last September I had a long conversation with him as he thanked me for playing that role and gave me credit, deservedly or no, for changing his life; for getting him out of Georgia and seeing the possibilities of life in the rest of the world. I shared my story about the Boy with him, months before I told others. He understood. As much as it hurts me to see their little family torn apart, I have learned a very valuable lesson this year: judge no one. No one can see into the hearts of men and for us to be so arrogant and presume that we know what is best for others, is the height of egotism.
I will miss them all: My step daughter, my son in law, my sister, my nephews, my mother, my husband, and those precious G children. But I will humble myself and say that they can all have beautiful lives without me, that they deserve the best no matter what path they take.
I can’t say that about the Boy, I still cry most nights longing to be on the same path as he and rocking him to sleep in my arms.