I did not want some lady trying to take the place of my mom. Nobody could take her place.

I heard the garage door open, and I knew what he would tell me. I lay quietly in bed. My father’s figure appeared in the doorway.

“Tracie, are you awake?” My heart was breaking as I felt my dad sit on the edge of my bed. “Lynn and I are going to get married,” he said. I was silent as he tried to explain.

“This does not mean that I love your mom any less. I know it will be hard, but I need you to be a good example to your sisters.” His sentences swirled around my mind, blurring into a mass of tears, weighing harder and harder on my heart.

“Good night, Tracie. I love you.”

As he left, my eyes overflowed with tears. My mind wouldn’t stop spinning. Why did my dad have to get married again? We were doing fine. Grandma didn’t mind helping us out. Mom wouldn’t want him to remarry. I didn’t want a stepsister my age. I have only one mom. I will be loyal!

I was eight years old when my mother died of cancer, and it changed me. I had always been shy, but my mother’s death caused me to turn completely inward. My friends distanced themselves from me. Home was my only safe place, and in it I grew up quickly as I became the part-time caretaker of my two little sisters. I must have blocked some things out because there’s not much I remember. I do know, however, that I became a hardened little girl.

It was during that stage that my dad told me he was inviting Lynn and her daughters to our house for a visit. They were family friends, so my little sisters were excited to play with Lynn’s two girls, Meghan and Paige. I hated the idea from the start. I suspected my dad’s intentions, and I decided I was opposed to the idea. I was determined that I would not forget my mother.

I felt betrayed that my dad would even consider remarriage. How could Mom’s memory live on with another woman in the house? I thought all my dad’s love would go to Lynn, and she would try to take Mom’s place.

I was wrong, and I am constantly amazed at how my views over the years have changed. It has been a long, hard process, but it has contributed a great deal to my character and has helped sculpt me into the person I am.

Learning to Love

The first thing I needed to do was learn to love Lynn. I thought she was a nice lady, but that was where it stopped. She tried to tell me what to do, and even worse than that, she loved hugs and kisses. I did not want to kiss her and went to great efforts, at least at first, to avoid it.

Lynn and my mom are about as different as two people could be. They were actually best friends, and where one had strengths, the other had weaknesses. I have many memories of my mother waking up at five in the morning to read her scriptures and bake bread. She was friendly, but at the same time a bit shy. Lynn was the bold, outgoing one who loved talking and meeting people. This was something I had to deal with; she was just so different.

I think it was these differences, though, that made it possible for me to love her. I had respected Lynn from the beginning because she was my father’s new wife, and I wasn’t a rebellious child. But it was different when I started to love her. I saw that she was good to us. She drove us places and helped us with our problems. It was nice to have a woman in the house, especially during my early teenage years. She made my dad more happy and relaxed than he’d been in a long time, and it was nice not to have so much responsibility for my sisters. But there was still a wall between us. I loved and appreciated her as a person, but she wasn’t my mom.

Over time, Lynn’s role in my life changed. I matured, and Lynn became a great help to me. She loved it when I talked to her. Sometimes I would just plop down on her bed and talk to her for a long time. I really started to trust Lynn, to depend on her.

I now consider Lynn my second mother. The wall is gone. I used to think if I loved Lynn, my love for my mom would decrease; but just the opposite has happened. I love them both and appreciate their strengths and the many things they have taught me. I don’t compare them since they are both so loving and kind and have so many wonderful qualities. It took me a long time to admit I love Lynn and my stepsisters, but since I did, I have realized that love is sweet and powerful.

I love both my moms, and I am proud I am a little like both of them. I feel at peace, because I know the Lord’s plan for my family has been fulfilled. I have grown so much through these experiences and rejoice that I have learned to accept different people, to express myself to others, and most importantly that I now cherish a person I vowed I would never love.

[photos] Photography by Bradley Slade

Tracie Hohl is a member of the New Canaan Ward, Yorktown New York Stake.