My stepmom and I have not always had the best relationship. She has been in my family picture pretty much since always and was an active participant in the acrimony between my parents during childhood.
The thing is, and this is a big thing, at some point everybody grew up quite a bit. One day I looked at my stepmother and I could see she was not a stepmonster, not anymore, and perhaps never had been. I looked at her and I could see a lady who despite an often cool facade has a very kind heart.
Last Fall I began to learn knitting and was assigned the project of making a striped scarf. I decided, almost reluctantly, to give it to my stepmom. I could make it in my brother's football colors and she could wear it to his freezing cold games. At first I wasn't sure that I wanted her to have the first thing I ever knit, or if I should reserve that for my mom, a knitter herself. The more I thought about it, however, the more I liked the gesture of it - that it was a way to show something that I had not said.
So I worked on the scarf. And worked on it. And messed it up and unraveled it and started anew. And didn't like it so started anew again. And in between stuff happened and I really just did not have time to sit and knit. Still every single time I worked on it I thought of her, and I thought of her with love. I knew I was doing something good. Almost a year later I finally completed my project and it was something I could be proud of.
I drafted a letter to accompany it. Ultimately I took out all the "I forgive you for the past" stuff and left simple words of kindness: I treasured her and was so glad she was part of my family. I realized that in the decades that this woman has been my stepmother I had never said anything like that to her.
It's so easy to take for granted that others understand how you feel. I'm glad that I, for once, made it crystal clear. Did my stepmom deserve harsh words spoken in distant years past? Probably. But the stepmom I have today was long overdue to receive these kind words and I am so glad I gave them to her.