She has a story too

My grandfather’s mother died when he was two. For the next six years, he was raised by his older sisters. Then his father re-married. The boy had a mother again.

Apparently it wasn’t a warm relationship. I picked this up once from an aunt’s comment, something about the stepmother being unkind or their not getting along. Immediately I took my grandfather’s side and, on his behalf, disliked the woman too.

Stepmother, 1857-1933, Russia

It’s not that I thought about her much, but this week, while organizing old photos I’ve accumulated, I came across a photo of the great-grandparent couple as well as separate photos of each. I put the couple and great-grandfather photos in the album but decided not to bother with the stepmother’s. I felt antipathy again.

One is grateful for any countering nudge, however. (Hoping it’s some sign of well-aged wisdom.) It occurred to me that the stepmother had a story too. In fact, bits of it could be discovered in our family pages. She was 41 when she married, 16 years younger than her husband, and marriage for her was “not easy.” Single before, she was now mother of seven, ranging from 8 to 28 years.

I also learned she brought her inheritance into the marriage, enabling a face-lift for the “modest, shabby” house, which had been in the Harder family since 1802, as well as a new machine shed. She brought a pile of feather pillows and duvets. “Everything was very well looked after,” a grandchild recalled. This makes especially poignant the losses of all these things after the Russian Revolution. Step-great-grandmother died in 1933 during a time of famine, and when she died “she had no bed but was sleeping on a ragbag with one sheet because their beds and bedding had been confiscated.”

Her photo is now in the album too.


12 thoughts on “She has a story too

  1. So many stories not told! I preached a sermon today at Jubilee about Puah and Shiphrah the two midwives in Exodus who saved thousands of baby boys from being killed. No one ever mentioned them when I was growing up, NO ONE, even though I heard tons of Bible stories! I felt like I somehow brought them back to life!

    Liked by 2 people

    • So glad you brought those two midwives to life! What a fascinating study that must have been. Midwives are very high on my list of women to admire, especially since our daughter-in-law is in the midst of midwifery studies at UBC.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This was a very interesting read and I can understand how you felt. You may have seen my Blip on Saturday 16 November regarding my Grandfather on what would have been his 120th birthday (he died in 1975). Although I never knew the story of why he left my Grandmother, went to another town and lived with a lady we called Aunty, I do wish now that I had asked more questions. However, when I was young, it was not the “done thing” to ask questions, particularly of older relatives. So glad you found the “back story” and that your step-Grandmother’s photograph is now in the album! M xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Maureen. I enjoyed your Blip and grandpa story, yes. (Often read your blips; love your writing voice.) I too wish I’d asked more questions, especially about that by-the-way comment.


  3. Doesn’t this speak to every individual? Those people we meet on the street who push past us rudely, those people who take jobs as telemarketers and pester you at home, etc. These people have stories, too. And if I lived their story, I’d likely behave exactly as they do.

    Liked by 1 person

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