Picture it: Two airports in the summer of 2004. A 28-year-old young woman is traveling with her boyfriend's 8-year old and a 2-year old on a bereavement fare. They barely make their flight out of Chicago at 7 a.m. and then sit in the Dallas airport for 8 hours trying to stay together on a flight to Portland. At 6 p.m., they're summoned to fly to Portland where the gate agent snidely informs the young woman that the three-some will have to sit apart from one another because the seats are not together.
"Fine, just get us on the flight," the young woman replies.
The young woman picks up the sleeping two-year old, his backpack, her carry-on and a handful of other travel necessities. They make their way down the jetway when a shift on the jetway causes her to trip, fall, drop the 2-year old and ram her knee into a metal plate.
The gate agent, fearful that the young woman would sue the airline, hurries to try and get the airport medic and to hold up the plane to examine the young woman and the child.
"No. Just get us on that plane," the young woman demands.
The three are allowed on the plane, where a flight attendant has rearranged three people in order for the not-quite-family to sit together.
At 9:30 p.m., they land. At 10:30 p.m. they make it to the house, where the young woman is christened "St. Erin."
Little did I know on that fateful trip in 2004 that I would set a precedent for my Stepmotherhood.
Whenever I tell other stepmoms some of the things I do to create the happy home you see from the curb, jaws inevitably drop.
"No way, I could or would never do that," I hear most stepmoms say. They're usually referring to the immense amount of driving or leaving early from work I do when my husband or his ex wife cannot get to the kids in time.
"He does what? And you let him get away with that?" is another response I often hear as it relates to my husband and some of his quirky behaviors as it relates to his "first family."
"And what about you?" Is always a shoe-in for the inevitable question to cap off what seems like an inordinate amount of "Oh my God's" or "I couldn't do that's."
Rest assured, my friends, I'm taken care of.
My life, specifically my stepmom life, is a juxtaposition of things I thought I'd never do and things I feel extremely fulfilled about for having done.
My husband's grandmother gave what I believe was the warmest, most heart-felt speech at our wedding (a close second is my husband's best friend's speech that revealed what my husband thought of me before he really knew me. Apparently, I was "a total hottie.") During her speech, my husband's grandmother extolled all of the virtues she respected about me: my loyalty, my ability to put other people first but not lose sight of myself, my moxy and my character. She told my husband, in front of our friends and family, that he was "damn lucky to have St. Erin on his side" and that if he remembers one thing in life, remember how special your wife is for what she's done for your life."
Her speech was the only one I teared up after.
She was right -- and still is. As a stepmother, and a wife, I defy society-perpetuated rules on a daily basis. I sign assignment notebooks, call coaches, arrange transportation, plan birthday parties and hang out with ex-wives without so much as flinching an eye.
I never tire of hearing the virtues of St. Erin when I talk to my husband's grandmother. Aside from my mother, she's one of the only people in my life that realizes my blended life isn't a bed of roses and that it takes a lot of character to be a positive role model when you really just want to throw a temper tantrum like everyone is.
That Erin: she was, and still is, a bit of saint.