Sometimes I think I should stick to fiction. It’s probably easier to remember lies than is it to remember little beads of truth so liquidy they slip through your fingers, but like my stepmother said, ease is for suckers, and she should know, I mean, my dad was no picnic.

I was pretty sure she’d bail before the wedding, and then at the church I was pretty sure she’d go Jane Eyre on us, and at the reception I was pretty sure she’d twirl right out the door to the highway and stick out her thumb, but when they came back from their honeymoon and she moved in, I was pretty sure she was going to stay.

She didn’t make a big deal about the step thing. I mean, she didn’t ask me what my favorite cereal was or if I preferred chocolate over strawberry, but she made sure I had all The Hardy Boys and everything Mark Twain ever wrote. She didn’t much care about my fish or the stamps I collected, but she always wanted to play Monopoly with me, Crazy Eights and Snap, and she taught me fool-proof checkers first, then cribbage, Euchre, and chess. She taught me the ebb and flow of watercolors all those rainy afternoons we’d try to match the outside. She never once tried to extract anything from me, even when I got caught stealing that time when it wasn’t actually me, and she never gave me love superfluous.

Is it too soon to say fast forward fifty years?

Some things are best discovered in retrospect, after all. I mean, you give a kid space, nourishment, knowledge, and opportunity galore – but love? – you give her just enough so she feels every drop.