Two Wives Tale

“I am the second wife,” says my friend as she tells of the trepidation that she felt moving into the home where the first wife used to live with the man she’d just married. First wife legacy was still alive in the house with it’s beige and yellow walls and a bit of pink splashed in the bedrooms. It would have to be re-done – in time.

Flckr cc 2.o thepatrick

Flckr cc 2.o thepatrick

And there were those awkward days when the first wife called far too early in the morning “to chat with the man about something written in the Gazette”. Perhaps the article had triggered a distant memory about a time that she and the man had shared. At least the hour of the call would have to change – in time.

“We aren’t conditioned with aspirations to be second. Can you recall a time where one proudly displayed a red ribbon award?”

She is second to two boys also. “SMOM”, they call her which stands for step-mom but in reality could also mean second-mom. Initially, it meant “you came after” or “I am not of your womb”. Later it translated into phone calls asking “what’s for dinner?” Over time they acquired a routine and a rhythm. The rhythm included a dinnertime when SMOM cooked the family meal. And the routine meant that the boys alternated back and forth between the homes and the dinner tables of the first and the second each night, changing only when there was a preplanned disruption to the schedule.

These regular exchanges created a plethora of dialogue between the first and the second.

“Did they pack their _______?”

“What time should I pick them up tomorrow?”

“Have you seen his English grade?”

And then there were deviations from their routine words charting into areas they did not hold in common or maybe sometimes they did; a Toni Morrison novel, the bad habits of the man, music. They finished their talks with their shared concentration on the boys, each nudging them to success from their different directions.

They continued to share the boys and the routine and as the boys grew, the “what’s for dinner” calls became a method of shopping for the supper of preference between the two. And so, the first and the second developed a secret pact. And the pact was that they would never reveal the meal.

In Sister Outsider, author Audre Lorde claimed that “Your silence will not protect you.” Perhaps the word protection is overreaching but through an agreement to stay silent, the first and the second protected each other and the rhythm and their dinner time.

When the first wife became ill and eventually died, the second wife never broke their code and she claimed position to which we should all aspire.

Melba’s Sweet Potato Waffles
from slimmed down chef Melba Wilson

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs baking power
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup vanilla coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mashed baked sweet potatoes
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat to 400. Bake sweet potatoes in their skin for 60 minutes. Pre-heat waffle iron and set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk till combined. In a medium bowl, combine vanilla coconut milk, mashed sweet potatoes and egg yolks. Whisk until combined. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites at a high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, whisking together until well combined. Fold in egg whites, making sure not to deflate them. Spray waffle iron with non-stick spray and pour in enough batter to fill the waffle iron halfway.

Enjoy with your family of whatever composition.

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48 Comments

  1. An interesting glimpse into the workings of re-modeled families. The only thing I question is:

    “We aren’t conditioned with aspirations to be second. Can you recall a time where one proudly displayed a red ribbon award?”

    Yes. Yes, I can. Especially if I thought the Blue Ribbon landed on the Bulls Eye. :D

    Reply
    • sounds corporate?

      Reply
      • “We are #1″ is definitely the corporate rallying call. :mrgreen:

        But I was thinking more of State Fairs and Dog Shows and Art Shows and Field Days where many people are happy with 2nd or even 3rd place ~ as long as the Blue Ribbon was awarded fair and square.

        Reply
  2. The waffle recipe sounds really good. Was that from the first wife?

    Reply
    • It wasn’t but it was sort of what I imagined they might be eating. Plus, sweet potatoes are in season so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

      Reply
  3. Wow! Great story! Interesting recipe (I LOVE sweet potatoes). And a great recipe for today’s blended families to follow.

    Reply
  4. I love the story that goes along with the recipe. It’s the perfect lead-up.

    Reply
    • Thank you Heidi. Stories are important and so is dinnertime so her tale really resonated with me.

      Reply
  5. What a beautiful post and story and waffle recipe. You warmed my heart tonight! Thanks, Tammy!

    Reply
  6. A lovely read, Tammy. Thank you! I’m glad I finished my KirBloWriMo (Kirsten’s Blog Writing Month, a personal project to get caught up on the scraps of paper with recipes and half-finished blog posts littering my work space) entry to read this.
    I’ll remember this recipe when the fresh stuff is done and I turn to the Strategic Winter Squash Reserve (sweet potatoes are invited to join the reserve, too).

    Reply
    • Wow, I just checked it out and you’ve been busy! Have you ever thought about Nanowrimo? I’m thinking “maybe” next year.

      Reply
  7. What a beautiful read…Yes, we are, I guess, as human beings are not conditioned to be second…but often, women find solace in the other and develop a very strong bond that exceeds any other. I’ll get some sweet potato, on another note. I love anything to do with sweet potatoes :D

    Reply
    • I was hoping you’d read this and wondered if you’d like it. I agree that we don’t like being second but my friend has now found power in 2. I thought it was lovely the way these women bonded.

      Reply
  8. Is there a tougher position than Stepmom? Blending families takes such an incredible amount of cooperation from everyone.

    One of my rules: Move into a home that’s new for both partners. There’s more than beige walls with splashes of pink permeating the atmosphere.

    If she’s come through that in tact, I take my hat off to her and bow with a “namaste”!

    Reply
  9. That’s a very hopeful story! Two weeks or so ago I’ve read an article about stepmoms and how they often have a hard standing in their new families, being accepted by the children etc. In the article, it was told that the children should should draw pictures showing all family members as animals, and the stepmom wasn’t in it. She herself said she saw herself as an owl sitting a bit further away.

    I think patchwork relations are a huge challenge for families, and incompatible expectations often stand in the way of finding together.

    Reply
    • I think expectations are the key. We set them or they exist based upon some esoteric perception of what is good. Clearly, these women forged a great path and those kids have benefitted.

      Reply
  10. I don’t think it would ever be easy being the second wife, especially if you have to move into the first wife’s marital home! I have a friend who is the second wife and the first wife used to drop in at all hours of the day and night and it was all very awkward. So they moved to another State and guess what, the first wife followed them! xx

    Reply
  11. I love the “secret pact.” Liaisons can be built in novel ways, can’t they…

    Reply
    • Me too! The secret pact was the clincher for me – a path shared by the two wives for the betterment of the family.

      Reply
  12. The Lorde quote “your silence will not protect you” reminded me of an MLK quote: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    I like Nancy’s take on the other (“we aren’t conditioned with aspirations to be second”). I agree with the author that our society tends towards the competitive, but like Nancy I enjoy the process as much as (or more than) the reward. This has meant that “official” rewards, even when not the grand prizes, were just more icing on the cake.

    Reply
    • Thank you for that terrific clarification ~ when we’re enjoying the JOURNEY, that internal reward is far greater than the external rewards offered by the receipt of blue ribbons or being able to claim, “I am #1.”

      Reply
    • I think it’s hard to learn. I didn’t grow up that way and have only learned in later years to reel back and enjoy the learning.

      Reply
  13. Tammy, this is wonderful. It celebrates our ability as humans to build links whatever the situations we find ourselves in. A warm, very human story.

    And a lovely recipe too.

    Reply
    • I had a line in there about humanness and I deleted it in the end. Thanks for reading this. I was hoping you would – it was quite compelling for me to write.

      Reply
  14. Tammy, I love this story. I agree that no one truly wants to be second, but what you choose to do with your position is what matters most. These waffles sound delicious! I’ve always wanted to try sweet potatoes in another way aside from the traditional roasted, baked, mashed, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  15. Lovely to honor the many differences in family compositions. Just like recipes, there are many ways to experience (eat) life. Enjoyed reading this tremendously.

    Reply
    • There is no one recipe and we have to learn that we’re always in the process of creating it.

      Reply
  16. That is a beautiful , inspiring story. It gives us a priceless life lesson. As for the recipe, just as delicious as the story behind it. Have a great week.

    Reply
  17. What a beautifully written story, Tammy. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  18. Intriguing! Love the combination of a tale with a recipe! The tale morphed into a tale rather than a current account of a second wife. Susan Nye – Around the Table also posts stories and recipes. I bet you would enjoy each other’s blogs!

    Reply
  19. I am reading this while my step son is asleep downstairs. He loves sweet potatoes so maybe I will treat him tonight :)

    Reply
  20. great story, well told, Tammy. I have a good friend who was that very person, the second wife in the first wife’s home. It took time, years really, for the home to transition from one to the other. I like how these women found common ground, and did the best for the children.

    Reply
  21. Tammy, How intriguing that on my shelf of to-do’s is to finish a story I started months ago I titled, “Here’s to being second, Monarchos”. Your beautifully written tale is such a great read that I’ve been re-energized to finish the project.
    Much is not said for placing second in life. Being second, whether in a Olympic swimming event and only losing by one hundredth of a second or being the second fastest horse in history next to Secretariat by only one tenth of a second. Second does has its rewards to some yet no one remembers who finished behind the winner. The position is so underrated yet in your story, I felt a special closeness to SMOM.
    So inspiring was your story, that last night we made your recipe and added fried chicken and sweet maple syrup to the mix. You’re right in assuming that the combination of tastes were so delicious, that I couldn’t help myself and went back for seconds.

    Reply
    • What a lovely comment. First, I’m so happy that it inspired you to write. The story itself inspired me. Second, we didn’t talk about what she cooked so I had to invent it and find a recipe to match. I thought a lot about fried chicken and even perused some variations on a traditional bird but thought that it would be completely out of character for both me and my blog. The sweet potato waffles are more authentic to me but I can certainly envision them with fried chicken and so happy that you did so.

      Reply
  22. This is beautiful, thank you.
    I like the sculpture of the two women, I wonder who the artist is, I looked in the gallery, but I couldn’t find it,

    Reply

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