Winter was just outside, knocking, trying to get in.
The wind threw itself against the house, whistling loudly. Snow flakes blew around so hard it looked like a perpetually shaking snow globe as they piled up on top of previously established banks. With the combination of the falling snow, the wind and the bitter cold begging to come inside, I felt safe in the house with my boys.
As the busy, hectic day of youth basketball games, children’s birthday parties, and shopping turned into a peaceful night at home with just the family, I looked around and could not remember a time I felt happier. I thought back to when it started.
Dating someone with kids had scared the heck out of me. I had no idea how to be a “stepmom” while dating, or at all. I had no idea how to form a relationship with his kids, while forming a relationship with him.
Snapping out of my thoughts, I looked at him sitting on the couch and I could see how tired he was. Hunched over, taking off his wet, snowy shoes, in his dress pants and button down shirt, he looked like he was going to pass out with exhaustion. I sat back on the couch, and when he looked over at me, I motioned for him to lay his head on my lap. Without a word he laid his head down and I could feel his body relax and his eyes close.
Laying in my lap was one of his favorite places to be. He knew when his head was on my lap he could let go of everything, if only for a few minutes. He knew I would take care of him and he could truly relax.
When his youngest son noticed what was going on, he came over and laid on top of his Dad’s back. Laying on the floor close to the stone fireplace that seemed to overtake the living room, his other son was contentedly playing a video game. The colorful flames flickered all over the room, and I wondered if he was too close to the fire; if he was too hot. But he wasn’t bothered. He just kept playing, seemingly happy to have the game all to himself for the moment, and I wondered how I got to be so lucky to have a kid like him in my life.
The heat of the fire radiated to the couch as well, its warmth touching our skin. Looking out the window at the dreary, cold, wintry dusk, I felt happy to be feeling the fire and the boys so close to me. Without thinking, I started massaging both of their heads. Under my left hand was baby soft brown hair and under my right hand was the thick black hair I knew so well. I could feel both of them relax at the touch of hand. They sank into each other without a care in the world. At the other end of the couch they had their legs intertwined, their identical feet and legs resting together. Both of them lay there without moving, taking in every stroke of my hands as I did my work massaging their scalps.
I loved the fact that he trusted me with his kids. I loved the fact that I had a great relationship with them. That his boys were so comfortable with me, and that they wanted to be close to me. They all did. And my happiness swelled, because I wanted to be close to them too.
The room grew still and all I could hear was the crackle and snaps of the blustering fire and slight snores coming from both my guys, signaling the extent of their happiness and comfort. Beneath my hands they felt safe, trusting, carefree.
I looked down at them and I could feel something inside me, it started at my feet and worked its way up to my warmed face. I had no idea my eyes were filling up with tears until they began rolling down my cheeks. I had no idea why the tears showed up when they did, but I knew they were tears of happiness, love and fear.
This was my family. A family I would do anything for. I never imagined I could love someone else’s kids the way I love these boys. I never imagined a life with them, but today I cannot imagine my life without them, or their Dad.
Today on this winter evening in late February, next to this balmy fire and with all the love I have for them in my heart, I would not trade this feeling for anything or anyone.
Author: Kelly Smith
Apprentice Editor: Toby Israel / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Bold Sky