The door to the bedroom suddenly opened and my sons romped in.
“Mommy, Mommy! Our room is clean. Come look! Can we have our presents now?”
Just then, my husband’s sister, Joann, stepped into the room. She was a tall woman, maybe 5’11”, brassy and unabashed and the same age as me, 36—both of us 15 years younger than John. She was striking, her blondish hair cut short, mannish even, but layered in a way that gave her a kind of distinction along with her tailored and well-fitting clothes. I got up quickly, trying to compose myself.
“Hey, welcome home!” she said, giving me a hug. “Was Hawaii wonderful?” she asked as she looked around the room and then she saw the open dresser drawers and closet.
“What the hell…” she said. “ My God, nothing has been moved for you!”
I remained silent, not knowing what to say, but my mind was racing. Was this done on purpose or was it simply that the family could not deal with Gloria’s death? At that moment, that terrible moment, I did not want to contemplate either of the possibilities, so I said, “I’m not sure what to do.”
Well, I know what to do!” she fairly yelled. She turned on her heels and walked down the hall to Deena’s bedroom. I moved to the bed and sat with my boys who snuggled into my arms. I could hear Joann’s loud voice speaking to her niece, but I couldn’t really distinguish her words. She came back and said, “Why don’t you and the boys go sit by the pool? It’s nice outside. Deena and I will take care of this.”
Perhaps everything would be alright after all, I thought as I grabbed the presents and led my boys to the pool where the fall sunshine shone brightly on us and I felt I had an ally with my new sister-in-law.
I took a deep breath and sank gratefully into a lounge chair watching the boys rip open their presents. I was so glad to see them that tears came to my eyes. At that moment, I truly believed the problems I encountered that morning were due to my unfamiliarity with the family. I knew we would be a happy family because I would work to make it so. My contact with John’s children had been superficial at best during our nine-month courtship, but I assumed because I loved their father, everything would fall into place.
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