10 April last was the 30th anniversary of first meeting my future step-daughter A--- in 1982, when she was eleven years old. She is now a married mother of two, and will be 42 in August. How time goes by. And despite my divorce from her mother, and her own
emigration (she has lived in New Zealand since 2004), the old relationship endures. Mind you, when she comes over to the UK in June, and meets me as Lucy for the first time, it will be put to its greatest test yet. Unavoidable. But A--- says she will cope, and I believe her.
At her request, I've just scanned the photos of our first meeting on the evening of 10 April 1982, plus others that will take the scans up her twelth birthday. It's mostly her and her mum W---. There's one of me on the first evening, too, but I'm barely unrecognisable. It was a long time ago!
It's good to do this. The power of photography to recall lost moments in time is - at least for me - one of its main uses. I never want to forget. And that was such a magical evening. It was a shame that things did not work out for W--- and myself, but of course there was a Fundamental Flaw in my own subconsciousness that I'd managed to pop into a box and lock up securely. I didn't really know what exactly was in that box, certainly it had no name, but I believed (wrongly) that it would never haunt me in the years ahead. I intended to make a success of the courtship that was about to commence, enjoy my role as a step-parent (but specifically not as a traditional 'step-father'), and generally make a proper go of it.
It was of course my first essay into marriage...and it's telling that I've never wanted to get married again. I can see now, with hindsight, that it wasn't for me. But the Parental Relationship was quite another thing. I did find it satisfying. I was there for A---. So was W--- of course, but I was an incomer, and I had choices. I could have been heavy-handed, or detached, or anything. But I was proud to be 'a parent' and although (A--- being a model child) that role was never put to any real test, I took the responsibility seriously.
I was the one who took A--- swimming (she was very keen), and I went to every parents' evening with her. And I fended off Tesco on Saturday mornings - her part-time jobs as a till girl, then as a floor supervisor - when they wanted her to come in and do some extra hours, and she wasn't well, or should be doing her A-level homework. And I recall gently wiping her face clean with soft words, and putting her to bed safely when she began clubbing, and wasn't used to all the drink - and the dire results. I was a kind and unchiding parent, even if I was an little awkward in my role.
But now I'll be meeting A--- as something else. It will be an interesting encounter for both of us.