Not-So-Evil Stepmother

Rick Ryckeley's picture

In this day and age of incredible technical advancements, it has become increasingly difficult to separate the real word from that of fantasy and fairytales. We watch movies made up entirely of actors generated by computers. Computer graphics are so powerful they actually have us believing that animals can talk, actors can fly through the air by swinging on spider webbing and gunshots wounds can heal in days with no long term disabilities.

Fairytales and folklore have been woven throughout our societal traditions. A fat man with a beard, flying reindeer, and a bunny rabbit help celebrate two of the holiest days of the year, even though bunnies and reindeer have nothing to do with the Christian faith. Fantasy, folklore and myth are mixed together into a soup we feed our children and call reality. As a child, I too ate that soup by the spoonful.

My father used to say, “If you tell a lie enough times to enough people, soon you’ll start to believe it yourself.” Snow White had an evil stepmother; everyone knows that. Thanks to Walt Disney, I grew up believing that all stepmothers were evil. As an adult, I’ve found that reality to be far from the “truth” generated by the fairytales of my youth.

“They got married and lived happily ever after,” is another fairytale. Not all marriages end up being fairytales. Some just end. Marriage is an incredible leap of faith, a vow taken to live the rest of one’s life with just one person. For a woman marrying a man with children, that leap is even greater. A stepmother not only has to love the new man in her life but has taken on the task of loving his children and possible grandchildren as well. It’s a tall order for anyone who carries the dubious title of an evil stepmother.

My parents have always been there for me. I knew that chances were I’d outlive one or even both of them since that is the natural course of things. As an adult, I was too involved with my own life to give the thought much attention - pushing it to the corners of my mind as I went through my daily routine. There was really no hurry. They would be there for me when I had the time. They always were. One morning 22 years ago, I woke up to find that I was wrong.

Mom had run out of time.

The thought of losing one’s Mother is inconceivable to most, and someone being able to step in to fill that void is equally so. Claire has been our stepmother for the last 20 years, almost as long as Mom was Mom. Mom never saw the birth of The Boy, wasn’t there to consol me during my divorce 10 years later, and wasn’t the one who celebrated when The Wife and I got married almost eight years ago. It was Claire.

Claire married Dad and immediately inherited three additional sons, a daughter, and a year later a new grandson fondly called The Boy. To be honest, it took years for me to warm up to her. At first I didn’t like her. Just who was this imposter trying to take the place of Mom? I would have no part in that! No matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t and never would be Mom.

She wasn’t trying to be Mom. She was Claire. Through the years, she has loved us like she loves her own kids because to her, we are. She has fixed her famous crab cakes and boiled shrimp at every family reunion. The one at the end of this month will be no exception.

She never forgets a birthday, anniversary, or special occasion - marking each with a card and a phone call. She has been there through the years, giving advice and comfort whenever they were needed. And she’s done something I’d thought impossible. She’s brought the sparkle back into my father’s old blue eyes. For that, I’m forever grateful.

If you change one thing in your past, you’ll change everything in the future. I’d change anything I could to not have lost my mother. Anybody would. But I wouldn’t want to lose Claire.

Stepmothers are the same as Mothers only different. And I care for Claire as much as I cared for my own Mom, only differently. A “step” is defined as a stage in a process; for me it was one of grieving. Through the unquestionable love she has given Dad and us kids; my stepmother has made the process bearable for everyone. No, she’s not Mom and never pretends to be. She’s Claire, our not-so-evil Stepmother.

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