Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gift Parent

In my spare time (very rare these days) I work on our genealogy. At one time I gathered all my information together and designed--and embroidered--a family tree, three feet by three feet, all tiny counted cross stitch. At the foot of the tree is a section I call the Gift Parent Garden. That's where all of the step-parents are recognized.

An acquaintance once asked me about that Gift Parent Garden. In my research down various highways and byways, I repeatedly came across step-parents who had raised numerous children not their own. In one case, a young woman of twenty three married a man with seventeen children and raised them plus her own three and then seven more that they had jointly.

Granted, that was in the 1870s and things are slightly different now, because in this day and age, there are many, many step-parents due to divorce rather than death. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that they are less important or less valued.

My mother died when I was ten. I was the oldest of the four children she left behind. About a year later my father presented us with a "new" mother. I'll freely admit that we were a handful. Any woman who would take on the wild bunch and turn us into a reasonably civilized group of young adults had to have a strong will, infinite patience, and eventually an overflowing well of love.

Last Tuesday my stepmother turned seventy-nine. She and my father have been married forty-six years. She's the only grandmother my children have known. My grandchildren call me Nanna and they call her GrandNanna.

I called her on her birthday and we talked for a while. We live far apart but our hearts are close. The memories flow over us, memories of other times and other places. Before I go to bed at night I thank God for the woman he sent to us--our Gift Parent.


Don't forget to drop by Amarinda's Blog and Kelly's Place and the OhGetAGrip.


  1. What a neat idea this family tree. I thought about it years ago but gave up considering my extended family was too big. Happy birthday to your step mother.

  2. Your giftparent must be a wonderful woman to help shape the wonderful woman you've become :-)

  3. She sounds like a good woman. I have to get back onto my family's geneaology...but as you say, time as the thing but I plan to make some as it's important

  4. On my mom's side there are 3 Gift great-grandma (lived to be 96), my beloved grandfather and whom mom considered her dad (d 1985), and mom's stepmother (d. 2002). From my mom's example, sometimes the Gift Parents are more important than the natural ones.

    Happy birthday, Gift Parent Cook:)

  5. Happy Birthday to your step mother. Sounds like you were lucky to have her!!! We don't have many step parents in our family which is strange but it takes a special kind of love to raise children not your own...until you MAKE them so.

  6. Your step-mother sounds like a wonderful person. It takes lots of courage, patience and humor to take on the challenge of a new family. My step-father died a year and a half ago. He adopted my older sister and me in 2004, 45 years after he became our step-father. Long story short, adult adoptions haven't been done since ancient Rome so the lawyer and the judge had to dig deep to figure out how to do it. Thanks for blogging on this topic.

    Kathleen Coddington

  7. The history book "A Midwives Tale" discusses how in Colonial America, a great number of children were raised by step-parents. One parent would remarry then pass away, then the living parent would remarry and pass away. Without step-parents, many of these children would have been left to fend for themselves.

  8. If you can find time to do, maybe I can too. Someday. great blog. Jean

  9. Aw, how touching. And what a wonderful idea for your family tree.

  10. I had tears in my eyes after reading your blog. Gift Parents. What a lovely way to phrase it, so much nicer than step-parents. Many of us connect step-parents with those nasty women in fairy tales. Poor Cinderella, for instance.

    I like the way you have created your family tree. Mine is on paper!