My Stepmother

My stepmother was somewhat of an enigma. She had the biggest heart and she felt emotion so deeply, whether sadness, anger, or love.

She and my mom made their home in Watsonville, California, in a quiet neighborhood next to an expanse of raspberry fields. If there was any way I can describe her, it was the opposite of quiet. She was incredibly passionate and was not afraid to make herself heard whether singing, speaking, or yelling. 

Her passions were numerous. She loved to garden, there is an abundance of plants and flowers surrounding my house in California; most summers I was tasked with the weekly watering of her plants. She also loved decorating. Her house is covered with crystals with odds and ends from all over the place. Paintings line the walls, showing nature scenes of the beach at sunset, there are crazy mismatched carpets covering the floors. Her crystal collection is unparalleled. There are probably hundreds of little rocks and stones throughout the house, each with its own energy, meaning, and story. She loved odds and ends almost as much as she loved animals. One of the numerous ways she expressed herself was through clothes, or sometimes the lack thereof. Her closet is filled with colorful dresses and skirts, bright shorts and quite the collection of sparkly jewelry. For my eighteenth birthday she had sorted out jewelry she wanted to get rid of and passed it along to my friends and I as kind of a game. Her generosity was unparalleled. She gave me a ring that I wear every day. It is two hands holding a purple stone, because she said I brought people together.

Ellen taught me a lot about myself and life,  but one of the most precious things to share with me was her love of collaging. She taught me how to collage with magazine scraps and stickers she had lying around.  Collaging as a means of processing, simply creating, or manifesting is an art form that I love, and I love my connection to her through it. 

She loved sweets, but not the good kind. Mike and Ike’s, licorice both black and red vines, Good n Plenty’s, the caramels you could find in an elderly woman’s purse. She loved being in nature, but disliked physical activity. She was old, but very young at heart…sometimes, it seemed, even younger than my teenage self. I don’t recall her having an age. She ordered Aquaphor in bulk.

Before my mom and stepmother remodeled their kitchen, Ellen choose the paint color for the walls. The walls were a vibrant red; the ceiling primary yellow with thick black stripes. I was very happy when they changed it to a soft blue.

(this is what my mom wrote)

She was born in upper NY to a family that on the outside was so privileged, but lacked the one thing that every child needs, LOVE.  Ellen, having been a highly sensitive individual, often spoke up about the injustice she saw. This wasn’t welcomed by the family and she was outcast, often left at home while everyone else went to fancy events. In this environment, she learned to be by herself, and her social development was stunted. She recently said to a friend that she felt in her 60-year-old self “like (she) had an 80-year-old body with the social/emotional development of a 30-year-old.“

It was late in life for her then, at age 50, that she first had a clue that she was a lesbian. She related how she was sitting in a cafe, people watching, when a handsome woman walked by, and she felt her heart race and butterflies in her belly. She thought, “if only I could be with someone like that… hey, wait, I could be… what is stopping me from being my authentic self” and she embarked on finding out.  

Her first trip after this awakening was to Provincetown Massachusetts, a very popular destination on the East Coast for the LGBTQ community.  She sat downtown there and watched so many happy male couples, female couples, and straight couples, all going about their business, completely safe and secure in themselves, and she knew she had found her truth at long last. 

It wasn’t until a few years ago, that she experienced discrimination and hate for being in a relationship with a woman for the first time in her life.  Many in the LGBTQ community might say she was spared many years of hatred by coming out so late, and while possibly true, she wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for it.  She had opened her heart to LOVE, had allowed that frozen/stunted part of her to melt, and was thriving in the warmth of it, and when the hatred came in, it poisoned the love that was there. 

On Memorial Day, this year, 2019, Ellen ended her life. In looking back on some videos she had made, she had been preparing for this for several months, without ever telling anyone. She felt so out of place in this world, so without purpose, so isolated, that crossing over became more and more of a pull on her, that eventually, she gave in to.  A large part of this pain, was after experiencing the discrimination from one individual, she cried out to the community to help make it right, and they did nothing, They questioned that it ever happened, they sided with the other individual, and they like her parents before, cast her out of their social circle. 

In the aftermath, many individuals in the community have stated that they didn’t speak up because they didn’t want to “get involved” in political issues.  To those I say, as memorialized at the United States Holocaust Museum (with literary liberties):

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

(Then they came for the Homosexuals
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay)

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

In loving memory of Ellen Dobbs Everlove.

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