When I tell people about my stepmother, Mary, they often assume that our relationship grew out of a sincere love for my dad. But that’s only partially true. In reality, something sweeter brought the two of us together.
Something much sweeter.
I was a 19 year old freshman in college when my dad and Mary met. She was a flight attendant, he was a passenger, and the rest, of course, is history. When they married a little over a year later, I was thrilled for both of them, but we all wondered what the dynamics would be like in our new blended family. Out of my teens and finally able to appreciate my own mother, I certainly wasn’t in the market for a new one. And with two adult sons and a stepdaughter from a previous marriage, Mary certainly didn’t want– or need– to play mom to me.
When my dad invited me to join the two of them on a trip to Florida several months later, I agreed– but wearily. I liked Mary, certainly, but traveling reveals a lot about people. What if she was weird, or critical, or really high maintenance? And what if, when push came to shove, she didn’t like me?
But on our first day in Destin, while sitting on our condo’s patio and eating a surprisingly delicious lunch (featuring Mary’s AMAZING tuna pasta salad, iced tea, and dill pickle potato chips), we had our first opportunity to let our guards down and really talk. She told me about growing up in the midwest, raising her kids in Winter Park, and about her breast cancer diagnosis just a few years prior. We discovered that, in addition to tremendous respect for my dad, we shared similar values, beliefs, and preferences. And when we’d finished our salads and Mary suggested, only half joking, that a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough would really round out the meal, I knew without question that my dad wasn’t the only person who’d found his soul mate.
The rest of the trip is a blur of sunshine and saltwater, but that particular afternoon stands out in my mind as the day that Mary and I started to build the relationship that would work best for us. And these days, I can’t imagine Lily not having her GrandMary (now a writer/speaker/flight attendant triple threat who continues to inspire all of those she meets– check her out at www.marycarwile.com) , and I don’t even want to think about life without my cookie dough coconspirator.
Over Skype yesterday, Mary shared her tuna pasta salad recipe. I know that she struggled to provide me with accurate measurements, as this is one of her “mix until it looks right” recipes, so follow it as carefully as you’d like– or not. But definitely make sure that you round out your meal with plenty of raw cookie dough.
Mary’s Tuna Pasta Salad