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Mairi came into my life about two years ago. She came from Arizona with a cheap trailer, four kids from three different fathers, and a seriously negative attitude. We met on a frosty October afternoon and with my Victorian upbringing, I developed a seriously negative attitude toward her. However, as time went on and I matured, we evolved from wary strangers into polite acquaintances then into comfortable friends

Her trip from Arizona was fraught with headaches which don't have anything to do with the story so we'll ignore them. She moved into a Wisconsin trailer park with a house made for 80? weather and her last electric bill was almost as much as all of my utilities put together. Since she had no money and no income other than public assistance, she became dependent on her father, Edison. Edison lives about 100 miles from her. And since everything was going wrong with the trailer, Edison spent many hours and dollars fixing things. Actually fixing just about everything. Like the doors, the windows, the plumbing, the heater, the furniture and sometimes the kids.

Kids are 12 year old Stone, 10 year old Amaryllis, 5 year old Zoey and Fritz, the baby at 2. Stone and Amaryllis were fathered by her first ? and only ? husband who whiled away his time drinking, drugging and mishandling the family. Zoey's father, Manny, plays a large role in Mairi's life now, but at the time of his child's birth, took off and left them. Little Fritz's father is now in jail. So Mairi didn't have any support, paternal or financial, bringing up the kids. Surprisingly enough, except for a few mild instances of running away, tearing up the house, starting fires, lying, stealing and cheating, the kids are pretty good. They behave well in restaurants, which has always been my idea of the ultimate test, and they're very loving. To me, at least. And their grandpa. And uncles.

Mairi has two brothers, Joker and Brick, who affectionately consider her an idiot or in more forgiving times, a ditz. She gets excellent advice from her father and brothers which, if she had to pay for it, would cost her a couple of her kids. Giving up an arm and a leg would make life difficult. Unfortunately, she knows best and anyway marches to her own drummer.

For instance. Prior to moving to Arizona to live near her best friend, April, Edison pleaded with her not to go because she would be all alone if anything clouded her relationship with April. She claimed all would be well because April was her best friend and they'd help each other babysitting, drinking coffee, eating cookies together and generally reenacting the Brady Bunch. About two months later April stole money from Mairi and accused her of sleeping with her husband. Apparently, she never accused her husband of sleeping with Mairi, though. She then stole Mairi's truck and hid it from her. That was about the first time Mairi thought that maybe her father had some sense. Not a lot, perhaps, but some.

Then there was the matter of moving the trailer. In her more financially comfortable days, Mairi bought a lot in Arizona and put the trailer on it. She built a fence completely surrounding the property, had drainage ditches dug, ran gas, electric and phone lines in and made herself a very nice nest.

When the love affair with April fell apart and Mairi decided her best bet was to move to Wisconsin, she contacted a realtor by telephone to sell her lot. She never met with the realtor nor did she give the woman any instructions other than "sell it". Well, as they say, out of sight, out of mind. Mairi moved and realtor Wanda forgot all about her. Why bother with a $2,000 commission?. Edison kept after her to make contact with Wanda to see what was happening but Mairi, not unlike most of us, doesn't like confrontation so she creatively came up with one excuse after another. It's now been 18 months and still little has happened. To be fair, though, she did get a new realtor assigned to her property but Jill isn't anymore interested than Wanda.

Manny reentered her life a few months ago. He has a bit of a rap sheet, severe credit problems, no job and bad teeth. Bless him, though, he treats all of the kids as though they were his own. Management by screaming. Well, Manny, after much nagging from Edison, has found himself a good job but, his past is catching up with him and he has problems with his taxes and the court system meaning that he'll have to take time off from his new job to perform community service and visit the IRS. Do you think the new job will sit still for him? But Mairi is happy he's there, nonetheless, albeit it's a little crowded with six people in an 800 square foot house.

Mairi was suffering from endometriosis and had a hysterectomy several months ago. She claims her doctor, Dumi, is a first class nitwit, quack and charlatan. Two months after the original surgery and after undergoing three more surgeries because Dumi didn't sew her up right, she's finally healing and reflecting. She wonders how much it would cost to put a contract out on Dumi. I wonder how much it would cost to put a contract out on Dumi.

Mairi's beat up truck was uninsured but she drove it from Arizona anyway because she's always had good luck driving and been in very few accidents. Edison bought her car insurance and the following week, a nice big Lexus rear ended her. Unfortunately, Manni was in the truck and the police checked his ID and arrested him. Apparently, he was still wanted in upstate Wisconsin for something or other and he spent the night in jail until Edison and Brick bailed him out.

Nonetheless, it has been an exciting adventure knowing Mairi and because I will soon become her stepmother, she and I will be together for a long time. I can't wait to see what else she gets herself ? and us -involved in.

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty)

Ann O. Nimus knows some fascinating people and loves to tell tales of them. Juliana Johnson is a good listener and tries to write her stories.

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