Aside from our shared interests in swing music and baking, we both loved old movies. During my stay, we watched “Singin' in the Rain,” and in the months to come, ripped through all six “Thin Man” films, went on a Hepburn binge (Katharine & Audrey), and discovered Buster Keaton.
I wanted to marry them both. John proposed during a visit the next month.
Ann's first trip to New Hampshire came three weeks later. She loved the snow, the neighborhood, and of course, Spencer sealed the deal. I was fun, but c'mon… a dog? During her visit, I asked Ann to be one of my bridesmaids.
Everything was so easy. It would always be this easy, right?
Hey, what's that noise? Oh, right. It's the Reality Police. Breaking down the door of my naiveté with their battering ram.
Even in the happiest of circumstances, blending lives is messy. Yes, Ann wanted to be part of what she called “a real family,” but all of the giving up seemed to come from her end – she left her school, friends, and the only life she'd known “just because you and Dad fell in love.”
She was angry. Who could blame her? And I was insecure enough in my new role to take it personally when she wasn't having a blast 24/7. We decorated her room. Signed her up for riding lessons. Adopted a guinea pig. And yet, there were many nights when she would cry herself to sleep. I didn't know what to do.
Then, one day six months into the marriage, Ann and I were expressing our mutual annoyance with each other. Exasperated, I blurted out, “Look, I don't get it. I've been trying so hard to make you feel happy here, and you don't seem happy!” Ann (channeling Buddha) replied, “Stop trying so hard.”
Wait a minute. “Trying hard” had gotten me everything I'd ever wanted: a business, a house, and now, a family. How could not trying be the way to maternal bliss? Yet I knew she was right. I couldn't “make” Ann happy. That was the thankless task. And it left us both feeling miserable.
I stopped trying so hard. I let go of my expectations about what kind of mom I should be, or how Ann should feel. We just started being (tah-dah!) ourselves. And in doing that, we became (as Ann now jokingly puts it) “one of the least dysfunctional families” she knows.
Jeannie MacDonald is a freelance writer, wife, and mother of one, who lives on the New Hampshire seacoast.