I became Jeremy's step mom when I was 24 years old. He was eight. One night I was rockin' the downtown Minneapolis bar scene, the next I had married Brent and was living in rural Minnesota with two small children and a house that required housekeeping. Having grown up the older sibling of one sister nine years younger than I, I knew nothing of small boys. Jeremy would run screaming through the house . . . naked. He would only eat chicken. He and Seth, the neighbor boy, started things on fire. He saw no need for clean underwear. I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Then he became a teenager and things got worse. When he was about 12 or 13, I (almost) literally thought I was going to kill him. I remember one time sending him to his room until his father came home from work. It was just after lunch. It was many hours before we saw Brent. I could not even speak I was so mad. I just stood there shaking -- my voice so calm and low, I was truly scared for everyone.
I take not one iota of credit for the fine young man and outstanding older brother that typical little boy has become. This Christmas Jeremy's gift to Colin was a piano composition he had written for him. I burst into tears. It was laminated and spiral bound -- the perfect gift for a somewhat hard to please little brother who runs through the house naked and only eats chicken. Later that day they went sledding. I watched them from Grandma's window going up and down the hill, rolling down in the snow, laughing. Sometimes Jeremy would pull both sleds and Colin up the hill. I wanted to take pictures but I was afraid to move, afraid they would stop or that they would start hamming for the camera instead of enjoying each other and the moment. It doesn't matter anyway. It's a picture carved in my heart.