Column: For Chris, Angela, Alyssa, and Khloe (aka my steps)
November 4, 2021
I was 12 years old when I watched both my parents remarry.
I went from having two parents to having four within a few short months. I remember my dad and soon-to-be stepmom’s wedding. I stood beside my brother and two brown-eyed, blond-haired girls who couldn’t be more different from me. The only thing keeping us together being the coordinating dresses the three of us wore on our petite, pale frames. In a matter of minutes those little girls became my sisters, and their mother, I would soon call my own.
I remember my mom and soon-to-be stepdad’s wedding. I stood beside my mom and my brother on the beach, where a makeshift altar and priest stood, planted in white sand for such an important occasion. From the side-view of her in the white dress that adorned her, I saw how my mom’s eyes lit up at the sight of him. Just by the way the words “I do” rolled off the tip of her tongue, I knew in seconds that the man who slipped that silver ring onto her small finger was going to be a part of our lives forever.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I gained a lot that year. Unfortunately, something stopped me from witnessing the drastic changes occurring in my life and the lives of my family, and that something was the word ‘step’. Step-father, step-mother, step-sisters. The use of the word ‘step’ created such a division in my life and the lives of those who love me. Step became not only a word, but a boundary. Step was holding me back. Step stole me from my family.
Step was like a chill down my spine, or a stench I could smell from miles away. No matter where I was or who I was with, Step followed me like a dark, grotesque shadow which incites fear and compels children to crack the door open at bedtime. Step fed me lies which I reluctantly, yet obediently swallowed…much like the bitter cold medicine you drank as a kid because your parents forced you to. Step became a lethal poison, and I was addicted to its bittersweet taste.
I was 12 years old when I watched both my parents remarry. ”
— Lyndi Longberry
Step liked to whisper to me. She told me that the woman now married to my dad would never be my real mother, and her daughters would never be my real sisters. She told me that my mom’s new husband was not my real dad, and because he had changed my mother’s last name, I was now different and therefore less valued. Step became a muse of deceit which flooded my brain and heart. The sweet tune of fabrication, an anthem of my sheer existence.
Though I hated her, there was truth to what Step said. Angela, my dad’s wife, would never be my biological mother. I wasn’t created in her womb and I have never called her my mom. Alyssa and Khloe would never be my biological sisters. There was nothing about our appearance that looked remotely similar. And don’t get me started on Jaxon and Khloe, who are the same age but not twins. The gawking eyes and confused faces come all too often…like a knee-jerk reaction.
Chris, my mom’s husband, would never be my biological father. Chris wasn’t the one who carried me out of the car while I was asleep, nor was he the one who held me on his shoulders as a small kid. My ‘steps’ if you will, were not a part of my life in the past pivotal moments I held on the pedestal deeply ingrained in my cerebral cortex.
I remember the way I felt that year and the following year after that. And Step was with me all of that time. She antagonized me daily, and made sure that the power she held over me never went unnoticed. I’ll never forget the feeling I had at 13, and the thoughts that crawled around my brain. In my mind, the possibility of me having two parents again, opposed to four, was out of the question entirely. But the possibility of my parents going from two biological children to one…that math added up…and Step alone wasn’t to blame for those thoughts.
Step was not responsible for my thoughts or actions. Step was a feeling I allowed to fester into an existing part of me. She was as much a part of me as the raw scarlet scars on the inside of my wrists were, which were written into my skin using a light touch of silver. But none of the pain, none of the heartache, none of it was because of Step. It was the result of my own mind. Step was something I created. Step was a personified representation of my brain and heart, mixed together to form something dark and looking back, I wish I had kept the bedroom door cracked open those nights.
But overtime Step began to dissipate. The scars began to fade, and I forced the door open. Instead of counting the cracks in the sidewalk when people would stare, I now look up and smile, proud of my family and all of the once broken, now mended pieces of it. I began introducing my step-parents to my friends because they’re my family. They are just as important to me as the people who have been with me since day one. My step-parents are not my biological family, but they are as real as the love they display for me…and science can’t deny that.
It’s been a few years since then, and now I’m 17. My parents watching me walk down the stage at graduation is closer to us than when I watched them walk down their aisles. But I know that no matter where I go, or who I’m with, my ‘steps’ will follow me. I know now, that more of them does not mean less of me. Looking back, I don’t wish anything was different, and looking ahead, I’m going to keep my chin up and take it one Step at a time.