What? I'm supposed to amuse MYSELF now?

Two thing happened at the beginning of August. The peaches on the tree in the back yard became ripe and Jennie, Clay’s daughter, arrived for her summer visit.

Obviously, one of these events is far more precious than the other, but the peaches don’t read this blog, so that’s the one that’s easier to talk about.
P1010028

I’ve spent much time outside, under the peach tree, peering up into its leafy depths, blissed out on all the peaches.
P1010032

They were velvety soft and filled the air with their perfume. When they were ready to be picked, their flesh just yielded under a gentle thumb. Biting into one caused a rivulet of bright yellow juice to run down my chin, sweet and flavorful enough to put candy to shame. They were small, due to lackadaisical thinning efforts. But oh, they were lovely.

I think I enjoyed staring up at their colors almost as much as I did eating them.

Every morning I went out to the garden, climbed a ladder, and studied the peaches. I cupped my hand around their fuzzy weight and breathed in their scent. The ones that had softened since the day before I twisted free and set down carefully in my basket. Soon the kitchen was littered with piles of peaches, and every meal was accompanied by a bowl them, sliced and dripping with juice.

Meanwhile, inside the house, the addition of one 15 year old girl had tipped the balance of the household over from “full” to “abundant.” Relationships surged in every direction and I, whose only meaningful currency is feelings, was overwhelmed. People kept asking me, with a concerned furrow of the brow, “How is it going? How ARE you all?” – as though Jennie was an unpredictable outside force that we were meant to withstand.

“It’s going just FINE,” I replied, “and Jennie is very sweet and just such a neat person.” I said it firmly, hoping to get across the fact that Jennie is no outside force at all, but one of us. I have heard the things stepmothers say about their stepchildren, and I simply refuse.

And so we went on family outings and painted her room and swam and ice skated and I tried to fill our days with activities that Jennie would enjoy and the boys could fit into. Through it all I fought with myself, to tamp down the desire to make everything alright all the time for everyone. So many relationships. So many directions.

Sometimes everything would come together for a moment in a moment of achingly beautiful harmony. In those moments I was teary and grateful and in love with everything and everyone. Blended families are amazing.
Img_0689

And then there were times when all these people that I love so much could not find comfort in each other’s presence, and I wanted to run away. Under my left eye a twitch developed, like the flicker of a failing neon light.

One day, on our way home from the zoo, I turned around and snapped at Jennie and Max, then turned back and folded in on myself, miserable. For the rest of the ride everyone was silent, and when we arrived home each scattered to their own corner. The atmosphere was brittle and cold.

After a while I had to drive Jennie over to her cousin’s house, and we climbed in the van, tense and quiet. I pulled out of the driveway, and turned to her and sighed.

“Look, hon, I’m really sorry I snapped at you,” I began, and she looked at me. Her face softened and she said gently, “I’m sorry too.” She went on to talk about the complexities of being a stepsibling, with such maturity and insight that I wanted to cry. I was the one who married her dad and complicated her visits with him. She should be able to just come down and hang out with him, but forever after now there will be this other family twined around her time with him.

In the end, I think, we were all ok. It was a good visit, a real visit. In the evenings, as I stood at the kitchen sink, slicing into peach after peach after peach, as the juice ran off my wrists, I breathed in the scent and listened to the sounds of all these people I love, figuring out how to love each other. I stirred warm yellow slices of fruit to make the filling for peach cobbler. I simmered peaches to make jam (that failed, not once, but twice). Wobbly pyramids of dimpled peach pits were piled on sticky surfaces. The sink was flecked with juice and blush colored shreds of peach skin. My shoulders ached from standing there, cutting and mixing and stirring, and I was very aware that abundance is exhausting.
P1010081

But it is still abundance. And it’s a miracle.

Comments

EasyDiverChris

Wonderfully written. I hope, for her sake, that Jennie reads this post. It would help her understand your point of view and, I think, strengthen the threads of kinship and love that are still growing.

janet

Beautiful. I have lived the good, bad and the ugly of blended families -- one that didn't and would NEVER work, and one (now) that is a wonderful thing. I have watched my four children absorb their stepsister into their sibling'ness over the past several years. At first, I, too, felt the pain and discomfort of "being in the way" of a father and his daughter. But after almost seven years (four years married), that feeling has passed and has been replaced with the fact that I now have FIVE children, not four.

Aimee

Beautiful. Just beautiful. And well worth the three week wait. :)

Mir

I was JUST thinking about you last night, wondering if you were immersed in summer Jennie-ness (and that was the explanation for your absence).

It's okay to be human, Kira. Because you are, so very wonderfully so. They're all very lucky to have you.

hollygee

Re: Jam
Did you put a few not-yet ripe peaches in the mix? That will add some extra pectin.

It is a lovely post and those relationships will grow and blend some more until you have the new flavor, the best of all.

Heather

As a stepmother, aching for my husband ot have a good relationship with his daughter, I love this post.

Amma Always

"For the rest of the ride everyone was silent" - NO! I can never get the whole van silent! I know it was a difficult moment, but it sounds like a miracle, too.

clay

I know that the time Jennie spends with all of us is definetly better due to the fact she has you and the boys to be with. You, my Dear, are a WONDERFUL wife, mom and stepmother.

Marti

Glad to hear you got some fruit. We only planted our tree last year, so none yet. Saw a veggie garden you would be in hog heaven in. At Fort William in Ontario, they had cabbages the size of classroom globes, potatoes, onions, beans, all the usuals of 1821!

Sent a card to the boys, but don't know how long it will take from Thunder Bay. If the Honey Company is going well I would like 24 bottles like last year (30) if they can spare them). Did I tell you I ran out in February?! Of course, last year some went to "thank you for pushing me out of the drift and back into my driveway" gifts besides the usual Christmas boxes to family.
Have been meaning to stop and ask the boys if their bees are okay this year - know the big producers are having problems. Anyhoo...hope I got my dibs in in time, but will understand if not.

We'll be back the 1st so I'll check in then.

Marti W

Rae

I thought that the last post you wrote was one of the most insightful things I've ever read, but this one brought me to tears. You have a beautiful, courageous heart. Many blessings to your family.

Connie

Kira, you are the mother every child wishes for, step or biological. Jennie is so much richer for having you, I love you. And who cares if the peach jam doesn't jell. It still tastes yummy!

Melyssa

Tears in my eyes and streaming down my face... love you, Kijae. Love you, too, Clay, for loving her SO much :).

jennie

wow it feels so werid not to have peaches at every meal. they were grrrrrrrreat!!! And just to let you know Kira that yes i did like spending time with my Dad before he met you but sometimes i would think "omg why can't i have friends down here" and now i do i have four wonderful friends that are also family and i love. yes sometimes it can be hard to remember that i am not the baby anymore and i have 3 sets of eyes always watching me trying to be like me and do what i do but i can't say i don't like it either. i have a special reletionship with each of my brothers and i hope that all of them will grow as we grow

I love you ALL

Heather C.

Wah. Now Jennie's comment made me BAWL.

Thanks Jennie, you have wonderful insights... and apparently have learned much from Ms Kira... "oh, look, little heartstring, I shall pluck it!"

The comments to this entry are closed.