They say step-mothering is a thankless task.
They are wrong.
Maybe I just have an amazing kid. Maybe what I lacked in uterine contractions I gained in on-the-job training. Or maybe Buddha was right when he said, “Cease expecting, and you have all things.”
I certainly thought I knew what to expect when I married a man with a 10-year-old daughter. I'd been a champion babysitter. Mary Poppins on steroids. Children would actually beg their parents to go out so I could baby-sit.
I had the Awesome Aunt thing down, too. My nieces and nephews viewed me as a five-year-old trapped in an adult's body. I was up for a shift at the Play-Doh Fun Factory anytime, day or night. At my place, couch cushions were for building forts, not sitting. I'd create “treasure hunts” with a trail of notes and prizes hidden around the house, and blow basketball-sized bubbles from a single piece of Bazooka.
By the time I got a puppy named Spencer, it was official. I was The Coolest Grown-Up on Earth.
So, when I met John and heard about Ann, I was psyched. At 40, ovarian odds were I'd never bear a child of my own. But with Ann, I could be a mother – without going through labor, teething, or diapers. Score!
Because John lived in Seattle and I lived in New Hampshire , our relationship began slowly. A mutual friend gave John my e-mail address, so we started writing, sometimes three times a day. Two months later, he came to meet me, and six weeks after that, I flew to Washington .
I was actually more nervous meeting Ann than John. After all, I'd gotten to know John pretty well through his letters. He'd told me a lot about her, but I knew if Ann and I didn't click, John and I were…what's the word I'm searching for? Oh, yeah… doomed.
While I waited in John's apartment, he went to pick up Ann. It was like a combination blind date (“I hope we like each other”) and audition (“So, you wanna be my stepmom…”). I had pit stains the size of dinner plates. I could hear the rattle of John's key in the door, and Ann's sweet voice relaying a story about what happened in school that day.
This was a Now-or-Never Moment. In she came – all long hair and glasses and braces. “Hello,” she chirped with a shy smile. I knew at that instant that it's possible to love two people at the same time.
Within minutes, Ann and I were talking like we'd known each other for years. She was funny, smart, and loving; despite the pain of her parents' split (she told me that weekend over ice cream cones, “I couldn't take another divorce”). And the spookiest part of all? Ann reminded me of me growing up.