A few months after my mom started dating Shawn Steil, our families were introduced. His older daughters, and his three sons at home. The three Maloney children. I don't remember what we thought initially, but I do remember that we always got to have crazy fun with them. Cholesterol night with friend cheese poppers, camping, bowling, movie nights, bike riding, bringing fried chicken to the beach, hula hoop contests, games of HORSE on the driveway. I'm not saying that we loved each other initially - but I would say that something clicked in to place, and really worked.
And "the parents" (as they began to be known as) must have seen that, and surely felt it themselves.
Before he was my brother, Austin wanted to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. One of my most vivid memories from Koser Avenue was of Austin on a two-wheeler, and Shawn running along behind him, beside him, coming to the realization that Austin could do this by himself, and letting go. Austin zooming down our street, past our house, and the neighbors house, and in to a huge tree down the street. Apparently he didn't know how to brake on the bike. I can't even type this story out without giggling out loud.
Those days were fun, plain and simple, and somehow our families blended - unofficially, and in August 1997, it became official, and the Staloney's came to be.
When the moving trucks came to our house on Koser, I don't remember being sad. In many ways, the book was closing on that chapter, and in looking back, that's the moment I pinpoint as the end of my childhood. And yet, I don't remember tears, just excitement and anticipation.
So the Maloney's moved north, and the Staloney's began, and perhaps more importantly - merged both on paper and in reality. The first time I saw what would be our new house, I thought it was gigantic. I brought a picture of it in to school to show my teacher, and I was proud to say I had my own room. The backyard seemed as endless as the possibilities.
That summer (and many of them after) were filled to the brim with friends who lived within walking distance, long afternoons spent at Cherry Hill pool, iced tea and popsicles on the front porch, and hide-and-seek at dusk, until mom had had enough and called us in.
It wasn't all warm and fuzzies though. I've always wanted a closer relationship with my stepsisters, and even with my beloved younger brothers, there have been rocky patches. But I think the reason it works - it being the Staloney family - is that we all know that this isn't some passing thing. For better or for worse, we're part Staloney, and we're a family. For good.