To say our stepmother Beatrice was an enigma would be an understatement. The first time my sister and I met her was in a restaurant prior to her marriage to our father, and she could not have been more charming. Her hair was arranged in a cute short bob and her make-up and clothing were impeccable. Coming from Mary, the wild woman that was our biological mother, my sister and I were very impressed with our stepmother-to-be.
During that first dinner, Beatrice mentioned how often our dad had spoken of us and she said that felt she already knew us. Lindy and I assumed that meant that she was going to be fond of us and we thought things were going very well.
Unfortunately, none of the events and discussion of first evening with Beatrice managed to seep into our future relationship. She and Dad may have talked about a lot of things regarding their future relationship together, but it appears that they never seem to have spoken of how often my sister and I would be visiting their home…which was daily. Once Beatrice realized that Dad was going to pick my sister and I up every night on his way home from work and that we would all be eating dinner together, she went ballistic. Of course, she said nothing to our dad who would probably have ended the relationship on the spot. Instead, in what was a harbinger of future passive-aggressive behavior by our stepmother, she called her cousin Avis who had such a boring life that she enjoyed listening to our stepmother’s endless complaints about my sister and me as well as Beatrice’s own biological children, Sissy and Kevin.
Many afternoons and evenings, we would hear Beatrice stepping into the tiny foyer leading to her bedroom and picking up the phone. She would begin by saying:
and Lindy and I would settle down for a long eavesdropping session. I don’t know if our stepmother thought we were deaf or just not very smart, as the tiny area outside her bedroom was easily within our earshot.
Every once in a while, Avis would let loose with some jewel of advice. Once, when Beatrice was complaining about Sissy and her misdeeds, Avis said,
Beatrice, everyone has to have a cat to kick and you’re Sissy’s.
Another time we heard her re-telling the story of her last visit to Uncle Bob (Beatrice’s brother). She and her friend Vivian Bundy had taken their numerous children over to Uncle Bob’s on a day he was preparing to move out of state. On arriving at Bob’s, they had blocked his car in and promptly got a flat tire on their car (a slight complication for Bob’s moving efforts).
Then one of the children who was still in diapers had gotten diarrhea. They had no additional diapers with them and instead “borrowed” several of Uncle Bob’s towels to deal with the geyser that the child had become.
The day was quite a disaster for everyone.
Although we knew we were on thin ice whenever Beatrice dialed the number for Avis, we still enjoyed hearing some of the conversations. One day she called Avis and came out with one of our all-time favorite quotations of her’s:
she began as usual.
It’s coming at me from all directions.
This was Beatrice’s way of saying she was overwhelmed, but we thought it was so hilarious that it became a family line for Sissy, Lindy and me in our phone calls.
I hope that 2014 is not coming at you from all directions and that if it is, you look at everything with humor.