Over the holidays, I finished a book of essays, My Father Married Your Mother. Anne Burt, the editor, is a stepmother who collected the musings of other writers who happen to be part of stepfamilies. The great thing about this book is the variety of perspectives it offers. Some essays are written by stepchildren, others by stepparents, some address stepsibling relationships. Most of the step relationships in the book are the result of divorce, but some are due to death. Some are happy, some are decidedly unhappy, many are somewhere in between. The collective result is delightful and poignant. Here are a few choice quotes.
"it's not really fair to try to 'share' a child. The parents may each get half, but the child never gets a whole." - Jacquelyn Mitchard, "Losing Janey"
"Daddy had died that January, and his house was immediately sealed and later sold by the bank. My parents were divorced, so my mother wasn't allowed to go inside to retrieve any of her belongings. Her piano, wedding presents, personal items, and all of our things were permanently gone. I have nothing from my early childhood; not one toy, school paper, piece of clothing. Years later, a psychiatrist would tell me it was as if I was a refugee, leaving home with only what was on my back." - Alice Elliott Dark, "My Room"
"Back in our apartment during a break from school, I pulled open my mother's dresser to borrow a scarf and discovered she'd packed all her belongings." - Dana Kinstler, "My Father's New Muse"
"In all the stories, the stepmother is always wicked, always cruel to children. Wolves are cruel, too, but not wicked. Wolves are the natural enemies of children, and they're meant to be savage. Widowed kings and poor woodcutters don't marry wolves and ask them to raise their children. They marry women, the natural protectors of children, who are meant to be warm and maternal. So why was it that women who became stepmothers acted like wolves?" - Roxana Robinson, "Wicked"
"For Jonah and me, our parents' marriage provided an ideal opportunity for a natural coalition. We both lacked siblings, and by virtue of the nuptials we each gained a brother. ...What happens when the marriage that forged the alliance no longer exists?" - Ted Rose, "My Papa Married Your Mama"