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10. Was your stepmother as mean as she seems in the book?

         Let's not assume that the stepmother in the book is my stepmother.  She wasn't.  Let me tell you what my stepmother was like, and you decide how similar they were.

         My stepmother was originally know to me as "Aunt Bid," good friend of my mother when we lived in Birmingham.  After my mother died in 1949, my father married Aunt Bid, whom I now called "Mom," and in 1950 our family, which included my older brother, moved to Columbus, along with her invalid mother.

         I found Mom to be less controlling than my mother so I had more freedom of unsupervised movement.  But I also found her to have a short temper, one that could go from zero to sixty in about two seconds.  She was not a very intelligent woman and flared up when faced with even a small problem, usually associated with keeping the house and car clean and operating smoothly.  Her invalid mother reinforced Mom's campaign against domestic threats, though fortunately for me, kept mainly to herself.

         Some of her problems resulted from interactions she had with other people, either at church, the grocery store, school, or wherever.  She would vent about this at home but trying to contain her salty language at my father's request.  When no immediate problems were around, she could smile, be pleasant, and laugh.

         She was an excellent cook, almost always overweight though trying numerous diets.  Preparing food, eating and serving it were the greatest joys of her life.  Her awareness and appreciation of beauty, however, did not extend much beyond the kitchen.

         Initially, things went pretty well, but after my father died in 1953 and she had to assume more responsibility, she became more irritable, more narcissistic, and our relationship suffered.  I never felt that she was really capable of giving or receiving love although she did assume the responsibility of being "Mom," without question.  She was emotionally immature, in many ways plain childish.

         I always appreciated what she did for us in keeping the family together after my father died.  That, in fact, was her goal. Throughout the years, we remained an intact family.  She was a grandmother to my two children and my brother's three children, though not close.  In her declining years, I supervised her care although doing as much as I could from a distance.

         There is a major point of similarity between my stepmother and Loretta that I would like to mention.  Neither could give or receive love, and that is what interests me most as a writer, the human heart.