Significant Mother

Beth was my ex-stepmother, but “mother” was still a part of her title. Could I share a home with her?

Comments: 43

  1. This is who we are: we don;t fit into the cubbyholes that were cut for us. Life didn;t turn out to be either predictable or always a glorious adventure. But we make deep connections in may ways. Thanks for sharing your version of what family can be.

  2. This is a gorgeous treatise focusing on two wonderful, loving, complicated people who have created a lasting, immutable bond. All the friends and family in the circle you and Beth have created are lucky to know and love you. Keep analyzing movies, writing screenplays, traveling the world, managing clutter - wherever this deep and special familial bond takes both of you.

  3. Sometimes I wonder if we need more articles about relationships, and then I read this essay: so thoughtful, so humorous, and so delightful in every way, and I think, yes, yes we do. It's clear to me just how excellent a travel and architecture writer Mr. Landon is, especially given how beautiful crafted this piece is, and the distance it covers, emotionally and otherwise. May you continue to enjoy your conversations for years to come, and may we continue to read your work.

  4. so beautiful- thank you for sharing this story!

  5. This is a lovely piece. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Robert -- can you please do us all a favor and immediately write a screenplay of this essay? Because I really, really want to see this on film. That's where it belongs. You will be played by Timothy Olyphant. Beth will be played by Patricia Clarkson. See, I've already done the hard work -- all you have to do is crank out the dialogue and the directions. Get going!

  7. @Stanley Rubric Excellent idea! Robert, lets get this started!

  8. This is beautiful.

  9. Wonderful story thank you Robert

  10. I love stories that capture the beauty and meaning of relationships over the long haul! Your writing is brilliant and authentic! Although the story line is different, this narrative brings Terms of Endearment to mind. You capture your relationship with your stepmother so beautifully! The two of you made something beautiful out of a fraught relationship that might have turned ugly. Your story is a powerful lesson about where openness and acceptance can lead us. Thank you!

  11. This was wonderful. Thank you, Robert. The relationships with people in our lives don't always fit within clear labels or boundaries, and it's beautiful to read from someone who has thrived in that.

  12. Robert, When I read the title of your essay I was was hoping to get some validation for the stressed, insincere relationship I had with my stepmother. Instead I found myself envious of your wonderful, sympathetic, intellectually and emotionally satisfying connection with yours. Thank you for validating my faith in the possibilities of relationships between all types of people and personalities. Terrific story!

  13. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story with us all. We need more stories like this, about the complexities of life. (And, my father's third wife, the one who made my life unfold as it has, is still a beloved friend after almost fifty years.)

  14. @dark brown ink - I neglected to mention the stepfather who tried to kill me. And am deeply grateful all these comments that you made possible, Robert Landon.

  15. Robert, I remember Beth as we visited you that summer at the lake house - I am the daughter of one of your dad's colleagues. I live in NYC now as well and am writing just to wish you the best and thank you for telling your story. Imagine my surprise when I started to read it and the faces and places came up vividly. I was not surprised by the story itself, however. The best to you.

  16. An amazing piece. I too am moved by the happy ending. But what also gets me is the courage people have to keep moving forward. Drunk dad, maybe incestuous mom, parade of "little chickies," and all the rest. This story is inspirational.

  17. She’s your big sister. I recognized it immediately, and I am so happy for both of you. Cheers.

  18. @Phyliss Dalmatian Exactly what I was thinking. Nothing like a great big sister.

  19. Thank Gd for Step-Moms. Mine was a life saver in so many ways.

  20. I like it! Why not?

  21. Families really do come in all shapes and sizes. This is wonderful writing about a wonderful family, and why I keep paying nytimes.

  22. Family is what you make it. You two made your own--I love this piece!!!

  23. So glad you had a positive experience. A child needs good stuff, and I hope this added to it.

  24. I am another ex-stepmother and lucky for me 2 of my stepchildren and their children are in my life and I am honored. Great story!

  25. I can't begin to tell you how lovely and moving this was. So happy for you and Beth.

  26. This is a beautifully written article. You are a great writer- ever thought about short stories? Thank you for writing this- this is the best and most memorable short writing I have read all week.

  27. I also thought this was wonderful to read. As a step-mother to my ex-husband’s now adult children, I am happy to read that the word mother continues in the description of the relationship. We may divorce one another, but once the bond is there we don’t divorce the children.

  28. What a beautiful story. It is truly remarkable that a lifelong familial bond can be formed between strangers in the span of a few crucial months.

  29. Bob: A lovely and moving piece, though sad reading for an old friend of your (admittedly difficult) father. Please give Beth my very best wishes. We would love to renew acquaintance on one of our trips to Brooklyn.

  30. Note: "Sara Edinger" was actually Bill Edinger. Sara Edinger sends regards also.

  31. @Sara Edinger wonderful to hear from you and thanks for reaching out. I will respond via other media! ;-)

  32. The novelist David Vann also writes significantly about his step-mother, who may or may not have become his former step-mother upon his father's suicide. Vann and his stepmother ("Rhoda" in his novels) remained close over the decades,

  33. @PrairieFlax just ordered one of his books!

  34. Great story!

  35. Nice article! I'm a fan of reading comments. So beautiful to see the many hearts touched, that place of our human pull towards genuine connection stoked, Universal Love!

  36. I enjoyed this essay tremendously and as someone who still has a close connection with one of my brother’s ex wives I could relate. Their marriage ended years ago but I still enjoy the friendship of my ex sister-in-law. Divorce led them to live 1000’s of miles apart but to me she is still a family member.

  37. Thanks all for your tremendously kind comments. I am really moved that this story resonated with readers, despite all its odd quirks. And here's to my dear friend, roommate, writing partner, and, yes, ex-stepmother, Beth—and to love and emotional safety, whatever forms it may take.

  38. @Robert Landon my wife just shared your beautiful essay with me. She had already passed it to many others...

  39. Robert, this was the most beautiful, personal, and raw piece. I am the Beth in my family, stepmother to my ex-husbands daughter 10 years younger than me. She was a brat to him during her teens but interestingly never directed it to me. We are more like sisters than anything. We’ve become closer as life turns upside down, my divorce to her dad, her recent divorce. She has a good mom, and I never wanted to impinge on that. Instead, I’m the one she called for advice that often she didn’t want to involve her parents. As we age and experience similar upheavals, I wonder if someday we’ll be another house of Golden Girls..my kids, hers, all of us together. My life has been so enhanced by her and I’m so grateful our relationship didn’t suffer with our divorce. How perfectly amazing that you can be there for each other. We call it our family weed instead of our family tree (of course now that sounds like family pot!). I’ll echo the other comments..if you aren’t a regular writer...you should be. You have a gift with Storytelling, in addition to a great story.

  40. @Richard Kimball Thanks to you both!

  41. Touching and beautifully written as it resonated with an empty soul

  42. I’m glad for you and Beth. Life is hard enough these days.

  43. I think I'll get in touch with my ex-stepsons today.