Our theme this month is love--appropriate for a bunch of romance writers, don't you think? Today, familial and intergenerational love is on my mind. A romance novel's happy ending always begins a new family, and sometimes renews an established family in the process. It's a cycle we never tire of.
I thought I’d share with you this favorite photo of one of my families. (I'm rich. I have several.) We like to take our chairs and our drinks down on the surf's edge at sunset, after the heat of the day and before the mosquitoes. The empty chair is mine. I jumped up to snap a picture of a family in the act of enjoying... just enjoying...being a family. I look at it and I can almost feel the great cycle turing.
And turn it has. The other day I braved the slush to mail a family heirloom baby spoon to our newest family member.
Unlike me, JJ the heroine of SEALed with a Ring, though well-to-do, isn't rich in family. The lovely CEO barely has one, and too much on her plate to start another. Let me show you what I mean.
SEALed with a Ring excerpt (c) Mary Margret Daughtridge
It had been a hell of a day, starting with a phone call from her vet saying her golden retriever of fourteen years had died overnight. Smiley’s death wasn’t unexpected. JJ had planned to ask the vet later that morning if it was time to end his suffering and put him to sleep. Still her knees went rubbery and the phone became so slippery with sweat from her palms she almost dropped it, when she heard the news.
She pulled herself together. In a few swift phone calls she had postponed this afternoon’s meetings with her sales manager, and the president of the SPCA; moved a meeting with the Azalea Festival Committee from lunch to breakfast; and shuffled everything in between. Not burying Smiley herself—whether her day was already packed or not—had never been an option.
With the help of Ham, the Vietnam vet who did odd jobs, to dig the grave, she buried Smiley in his favorite cool, shady spot in the garden: at the foot of a fall-blooming, white camellia sesanqua. It was wrenching, but oddly comforting too. Smiley had been a good dog. He deserved to have his body tended to, not disposed of, like something used up.
While her grandfather, who had come outside in the unseasonably warm autumn sunshine to pay his respects, looked on, JJ and Ham lined the grave with Smiley’s Carolina blue, UNC blanket and laid him in it. In old age Smiley’s silky coat had turned more blonde than golden. A light breeze ruffled the beautiful wavy fur, giving the heart-clenching illusion that he had started breathing again. JJ knelt forward and laid her hand on his chest. Underneath the fur he was cold, and the ribs too stiff. She carefully pulled the edges of the blanket over him and smoothed it til he was hidden from her sight.
After that—after burying her dog—the thought of traveling an hour and a half to another town to attend the wedding of a couple she hardly knew had been almost unbearable. She would have disobeyed her grandmother’s dictum that an invitation, once accepted, became an unbreakable obligation, if Mary Cole Sessoms, the mother of the bride, weren’t a good friend and her mentor.
JJ owed Mary Cole. Without Mary Cole to advise her, JJ thought she would have buckled under the load when she assumed leadership of Caruthers Automotive at the age of twenty-two. If the older woman wanted JJ at her daughter’s wedding, then JJ would be there. And she would put a smile on her face and act pleased about it.
At last, she and Ham had redistributed the pine straw mulch over the freshly turned earth. She shook the horny hand Ham offered in condolence. Her grandfather squeezed her shoulder in sympathy. Each in his own way loved her, she knew that. For each of them, the small gesture of comfort was as demonstrative as they got.
You’d think burying the only creature who unfailingly rejoiced in loving her and had never been afraid to show it was bad enough. But then, her grandfather said, “Jane Jessup, would you come into my office after you wash your hands?”And her day got a great deal worse.
That's a snapshot of JJ's family at the beginning of the book. How about you? What are your snapshot moments? (Whether you have an actual picture or not.)