I remember the first time I met her. I had just started dating my now husband and had driven down to Charleston to see him. I wasn’t halfway through the front door when she asked me to play Freddi Fish on her computer. She was seven; his daughter.

She grabbed my hand and we walked into her room; she sat on my lap and we proceeded to play Freddi Fish for hours. That was 14 years ago; I still have that game.

I will never forget that night. It’s permanently etched in my brain. So, for a girl with the world’s worst memory, that has to mean something.

She and I formed an immediate bond. Two weeks later I moved to Charleston and we became inseparable. I just loved that kid.

Two years later I became her step-mom…god, I hate that word. *Rant time – step parents should be revered. We kiss boo-boos, make school lunches, taxi them everywhere, build relationships with teachers, read to them at night, check under the bed for monsters—and when that still isn’t good enough—spend hours doing crossword puzzles at the foot of their beds until they finally fall asleep, dry tears, threaten bullies (step parents are even scarier with the bullies…we already have that negative connotation associated with our “step” branding, so, with nothing to lose, you never know the lengths we’ll go to, to protect our almost kids…just saying – don’t mess with the step-mommy – she just might be a crazy bitch) and one million percent become emotionally invested in their little lives.

Curve ball…I’ll be honest, when she was growing up, there was rarely a time when I felt like a mother figure to her – we were always more like sisters: she made me crazy, I made her crazy; she’d confide in me, I’d confide in her; she could really piss me off, I could really piss her off; she’d lie to me, I’d lie to her; she’d tell me things girls don’t really tell their mothers, I’d tell her things mothers don’t really tell their daughters; she adored me, I adored her; she’d complain about me, I’d complain about her. It was priceless.

Through it all—good times and bad—there was always that bond. Even during the rare occasion when we were super mad at each other, we knew it would blow over and we’d be fine…we just needed that time to be mad.

Then she graduated high school and things changed. She had her separate almost-grown-up life; she had things to do, so we drifted…not a lot, not even enough to notice it. But when her dad and I moved to Florida, the drift was noticed. I was positive that was it…we’d lose touch and only talk on birthdays and holidays.

But then she threw a curve ball…calling us all the time, updating us on the things happening in her life, asking for advice, sending presents at Christmas, calling my mom to update her on the 411 in her life…all the things parents hope will happen when their kids leave the nest. Funny – one thousand miles away, yet I feel closer to her now than during the terrible teen years when we lived under the same roof. I can’t explain the feeling…it could be almost motherly.

But even though she keeps in constant contact with us, it doesn’t change that we do live a thousand miles apart. I miss seeing that face every day. I miss those crossword puzzles. I miss that first night. And I really miss her. Love you, kiddo.