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Walking In the Forest

Walking In the Forest is another story from writer Neta Shlain who wrote My Father and I and Patience Before Passion. This story of Neta’s relationship with her mother and stepfather.

I wish to talk about my mother. Now that I’ve distanced myself far enough to be able to view her from an Archimedean point, I’m able to do so.

I can’t talk about my mother without talking about my stepfather, Sam. Sam is a necessary character in the story of my mom, since he is the only person I know, besides myself, who remained by her side long enough to deeply influence her. Before us both there was of course my dad, but him I don’t know.

I want to talk about the two of them, my stepfather and my mother as a family. My family which I had the burning urge to leave as early as chance allowed until I finally managed to do so when I was twelve.

My desire to leave was from an early age. I guess I am a roaming spirit. When there were gypsies living in our building, I wished to escape with them, my head filled with tales of songs and horses.

One summer, after another silly fight with mother, I started to take things seriously and began collecting biscuits and bread leftovers.

I was assembling the food and other necessary escape gear into my rucksack. Once my supply was ready, I wrote a letter explaining to my unsuspecting next of keen why her only child, who was nine years old, has run away from home and perhaps even the country. I wasn’t sure where I was going.

She discovered the note which attempted to spare her feelings and blamed my flight on “our personality differences” rather than her sternness. She was cleaning my toys shelf and came across the little rucksack with the note attached to it.  This all happen while I was enjoying my days in the summer camp having completely forgotten about my plans to escape.

At twelve, however, things were quite different. It was during the Gulf war when rumors spread about a telephone booth by the market down town near the mall.

People said this phone got broken and now, somehow miraculously, you could ring any place in the world for any length of time for free.

We still had relatives in Kiev and so I went down to check it out; I told mother I’d be home for dinner.

At the spot by the market, near the mall, it seemed the rumor was all true. The spacious parking lot was alive with chattering heads and the queue was probably as big as the one for the Moscow McDonald’s on opening day.

I took a place in the lengthy line and after merely four and a half hours I received my chance to scream a few words into the mouthpiece. I remember holding it with a mixture of satisfaction and disgust, acutely aware of hundreds of mouths who shouted things into it just before me.

The receiver was wet and broken, but I joyously screamed whatever came into my head at that particular moment. There was no time for a civil conversation as the pressure of people wanting the phone behind me was fierce.

Happy and proud I got home when it was already dark. This was before the cellular days and people lived relying on their watches, intuition and trust. Unlike me, my mom was always very good with her watches. I always disliked their constant ticking.

The first thing that greeted me as the door opened was a juicy slap followed by shouts. She didn’t believe me, no matter how many times I repeated the story.

She refused to go down to the phone booth to verify it either. She just kept shouting, about her whole miserable existence in this warm hell, with this man she finally met and the relationship with whom I apparently disturb.

So I left for boarding school.

Many times she blamed my stepfather and me for being too chilled, too quiet and too laid back. I guess it was our defense mechanism.

With such a strict person around, who is equally caring as she is controlling, one have to employ strategic behavior to allow self-preservation. This is what we had; this was the best we could do if we were to stay near her.

When Sam finally left her, I understood why. I wasn’t living with them for a long time by then.

I didn’t want it or liked it but I knew why he’s doing it. And it’s not that he became happy when he left her.

Separations are hard. Not being able to stand somebody doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love the person.

He merely had to save himself, while it was still not too late. She kept blaming him, for everything, just as she blamed me before; but now I was gone and he remained all on his own against the constant fire of her non-stopping anger and frustration of rapidly developing illness.

One of the things I compare relationships to is walking in the forest.

You meet someone and you decide to walk together.  Sometimes the path will lead you to a dead end, where it becomes too narrow to continue or too muddy or the branches will be scratching at your face.

This is the place of decision. How you walked up to this point will determine how you will go from there. As David Mitchell said in Black Swan Green “Trees are always a relief, after people.”

About The Author

Author Neta Shlain was born in the Ukraine and raised in Israel. The mother of two she now calls the UK home where she works as a writer and artist. You can see some of her work at Blue Efrat.

Do you have a story of a stepdad you want to share? We would love to read it. Your stories help and encourage other stepdads as well as those men considering becoming one. Please follow this guidance in preparing your submissions and send them to info@supportforstepdads.com. Thank you.



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