It's that time of year again.
You know what I mean. It is the time of year when being thankful rises to the top of our consciousness and we actually stop and count our blessings, instead of merely rushing past them on the way to something or somewhere else.
I have many Thanksgiving thoughts and memories, and some of them may (may, I say) make their way into a post on the Day itself. But I just experienced something - not for the first time, I might add - that always makes me thankful beyond words.
The experience? Two and a half hours with my stepdaughter, Elizabeth. She just left with her dad to go to Scouts.
Elizabeth is well on her way to being 16, a sophomore in high school. She was 13 and in seventh grade when her parents separated, almost 15 and in ninth grade before she saw her father on a regular (i.e., an established and adhered to schedule) basis again. (Comment: someone - not Warren - behaved very, very badly during the lengthy divorce process when it came to the children.) There were many times during that whole time when what little contact or information Warren had about Elizabeth was along the lines of "I hate you" or "I don't want to see you." After it was over and we were married, she was not hostile or ugly towards me, but she made it very, very clear without ever opening her mouth that she would prefer if I did not exist.
What a long ways we have come.
Elizabeth spent much of this evening before supper talking with me - sharing her day, reviewing her knowledge of Ohio driving law (a learner's permit is in the offing), talking about tap dance (Elizabeth loves to dance), exclaiming over Scouting requirements (she is in Venturing, the co-ed program of the Boy Scouts), and just giggling and laughing. She spent a huge portion of it sprawled out on the couch, furrowing her brow over traffic signs, looking at her Scouting requirements, and sharing bits of information with me.
She is a great young lady.
I am thankful that Elizabeth is in my life and that she made the decision to let me be in hers. The turning point came last December when after a particularly chilly and stressful evening, I told Warren he could take his kids home in the truck while I walked home from the nearby party because I was too tired of trying to be pleasant with Elizabeth. I don't think Warren said a lot to her on the way home, other than "April is my wife and in this home, you will be nice to her. You don't have to like her, but you will be nice."
Bless her heart, Elizabeth went way beyond that. The next day, while Warren was running errands and I was busy in the family room trying to stay out of her way, she sought me out, sat down, and started talking - first about dance, then about how ballet slippers are made (taking an old pair apart to show me), then about school, then about something else, and then something else, and then something else.
I remember sitting there holding my breath, afraid the moment would evaporate. It didn't and neither did Elizabeth.
She has not closed me out since then. Sometimes I get the same brusque teenage treatment that Warren gets, but we get it together when she is feeling her age. I have never again felt singled out (or ignored entirely) because I married her dad.
I am thankful for lots of things - not just during this season, but (I hope) most days. Warren and my boys are on the top of that list, as are Alise, my almost daughter-in-law, and David, my stepson. My friends are close behind.
Elizabeth, though, occupies a special place on that list. I never had a daughter. I don't pretend that I am her mother; I'm not. But I am thrilled and delighted and, above all, thankful to have this amazing, wonderful, funny, engaging stepdaughter who somewhere, somehow, made the decision to dance into my life.