my aunt connie was a stepmother too

My Aunt Connie showing the suits at PGW in Philadelphia a new hot water heater circa 1953.

Being a stepmother is not for sissies. I have been one for quite a bunch of years at this point.

Being a stepmother means that you literally step into a role of being the mother figure to a child or children who you did not give birth to. You married their father. You are a parent yet you don’t parent because you aren’t their mother, although you are a parental figure.

It’s a tightrope at times. Wonderful. Rewarding. Sometimes magical. Sometimes frustrating. You have, as a stepmother, a biological disconnect. So there are things that might not be a big deal to a biological parent that will totally get to you.

I realized the other day when my cousin Kevin posted he had seen some of his mom’s family that his mother was the first stepmother I ever knew. His mom was my Aunt Connie. She was my Uncle Jack’s second wife. His first wife Millie died of an aneurysm when two of my cousins were very little.

Aunt Connie was the first stepmother I ever knew except to me she was just my aunt. And she also had a stepmother because I learned through Ancestry research that her birth mother died when she was two from tuberculosis.

After her mother died, Aunt Connie’s father remarried, and she gained a stepmother. Then, a few years after that her father, who was a Polish immigrant and a relatively young man in his early 30s, died of sudden heart failure as per my research. So then her stepmother remarried, and she then had a stepfather. That also meant siblings from every marriage.

That is a lot of crazy change for a kid, during a time when change like that was I imagine, rather hard. My Aunt Connie helped take care of her stepsiblings, because both parents worked. And when she started working on her own until she married my uncle, my cousin said she was expected to hand every paycheck over to her stepmother. She went from that situation to becoming the stepmother of a 9 year old girl and a 19 month old baby boy.

As an adult, now, well into middle-age, having been a stepmother for a bunch of years now I am truthfully in awe, of what my aunt did. I actually can’t imagine doing that. That’s a lot of love to give to be able to do that.

I remember when I was little that, my cousin Suzy had frequent flyer miles on my parents’ sofa. Her relationship with her stepmother, my Aunt Connie, was tempestuous at times. When she married the first time the wedding was at our parish church and reception was at our house.

I do not pretend to know, or to have understood the intricacies of the relationship between my two cousins from my uncle’s first marriage and their stepmother. I don’t really know what it was like for any of them. I do remember that the relationship settled out when my cousin Suzy became an adult and had her own children. Then I remember going to my cousin Suzy‘s house on the weekends and often my aunt and uncle would be there.

But now, as an adult, being a stepmother, I know that it couldn’t have been easy a lot of the time for my Aunt Connie. And my two cousins from my uncle’s first marriage, lost their mom when they were really little due to a tragedy so it was hard for them too. It’s not like today, where there are resources to help create and foster the growth of blended families. And grief counseling.

I remember my mother was crazy about her brother’s first wife. Almost seemed to idolize her. And I never realized until I was doing this Ancestry research that when my uncle and his first wife were married, they lived with my mother and her parents. So they were all really close then, I guess. Of course, what I never remember growing up is ever seeing any of the family of my cousin Suzy’s birth mother Millie. It’s like they kind of disappeared after their daughter died.

Things I remember about my Aunt Connie was her laugh, and she had a great smile. She was also a very talented crafter. She taught me how to make paper flowers out of tissue paper when I was little. And things like paper chains for Christmas trees. I also remember when everybody was making those ceramic Christmas trees with the little lights she made and gave us one. I love those trees. I don’t know whatever happened to ours.

I’ve actually learned more about my Aunt Connie as an adult from my cousin Kevin, and from Ancestry. I didn’t see her a lot as a child. We lived in different areas, so it was holidays mostly. As a child I was also quasi oblivious to the relationships between all of the adults.

But now that I am an adult, I am thinking about what it was like for my aunt to be a stepmother in a time when stepparents weren’t really supported, especially if they were women. You got married, sometimes you worked, sometimes you stayed home, you took care of the kids from the first marriage, and then you may or may not have had your own children in addition . But nobody talked about creating a blended family or what it was like.

Being in a blended family does take work. And it’s not simple. I can tell you there have been moments of incredible self-doubt and panic on my part wondering if I could do it, if I could even be a stepmother. I wonder if my aunt had those moments in a time where she probably wouldn’t have told anyone she was having those thoughts even if she had them.

A big difference between the two of us is I married later in life and was unable to have children. She married my uncle the day after her 29th birthday. The next photo is her wedding photo with my uncle that my cousin Kevin gave me to use. She was a beautiful bride and they looked so happy.

I wonder if she was still alive what she would have said about being a stepmother starting in 1960?

Anyway, just some food for thought and a little grist for the writing mill. And many thanks for my cousin Kevin for letting me pepper him with questions and ask him for photos.

Thanks for stopping by.