Friday, February 5, 2010

Love >Family> Love> Family> Love >Family> Love... (Repeat as needed)

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.)


  1. Mary Margret, it must be nice to have a rich family! :) Mine is so small that it seems almost nonexistent at times. I've always loved reading about large families and thought how wonderful it would be to be part of that! :) So it's wonderful to have books to read like that!!! :)

  2. I love this post--I think sometimes it's important to think about teh different types of families out there. On both sides of my family, we are very spread out across the country, making holidays and other gatherings hard to coordinate. But we have some really close family friends who we almost always get together with, and they are just as close to us as actual relations!

    I loved SWAR :)

  3. I'm one of 21 first cousins, and most of us map out the early weeks in August each year to sit on the beach together. The circle of chairs grows with every passing year as we add new spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends. Our favorite time is late afternoon until sunset. Perfection.

    I just spent last weekend with 8 of my 9 female first cousins. What a blast! I still hurt from laughing. We suffer from an embarrassment of riches in the family department--on both sides.

  4. Wonderful post Mary Margaret! And I loved your excerpt. It's the small gestures that sometimes show the greatest feeling.

  5. When my Mom passed away in 1985, our 'family' fell apart, we don't talk, we don't write...nada...she was the glue that held us together. I like the idea of get togethers and bonding, I will be getting your book, the excerpt makes it sound like a great read.

    My word verification: wackywe

    Honest! That is the word, though for me it should read wackyme! LOL Though if I think about it, with some of the ladies who blog here....

  6. Terry, it is nice. I have the only wealth it's possible to take with one--love.
    I also understand vanishingly small families. On my mother's side the family is so small we "claim kin" with people we probably don't share two chromosomes with--but hey, we figure we have to work with what we have.

  7. A good distinction, Danielle. Among the families I say I'm rich in, are the families of friends who claim me as one of theirs.
    And they are sometimes easier to take. :-) One is often more tolerant of human frailty among those "families of choice."

  8. Oh Marie! Is there anything more purely fun than hanging out with people who get one's sense of humor?

    My brothers and sisters and I can laugh together until the tears are running down our cheeks.

  9. Thank you, Kathryne.

    I took that scene out, and put it back in, at least a dozen times. It was, after all, essentially backstory. Finally, I left it in, precisely because it was a "before" snapshot.

  10. Jessica,
    My brothers and sisters and I are widely separated in age and when my mother died, we were scattered all over the country. After a ten or so years, we realized that's what was going to happen to us, if we didn't make a concerted effort to remain a functioning family.

    I'm happy to say we did make the effort, and looking back, I wish we'd made more.

    (So you read, and are occasionally tickled by those generated words too. Mine today was "bohype." But my favorite was "weirdma."

  11. When my grandbaby was born - the nursery just born pix.

  12. Pat,

    Yes, newborn pictures are literally "snapshot moments" when we see the family>love>family>cycle perfectly, aren't they?

  13. Great post, MM! And that excerpt brought tears to my eyes.

    Today would have been my grandmother's 97th birthday, and we have a new little family addition (a girl) due to arrive any day now. It is a cycle, and a wonderful one.


  14. Thanks AC. I LURVE (as you would say) to make readers cry. :-)

    How wonderful to know there's an already-loved one on the way, even as you remember the loved one who is gone.


  15. Great post Margaret

    I have a very large family and we all try really hard to stay in touch. I have 4 children and 4 grandchildren and it is so much fun when we are all together being a Nanna is so different from being a parent and I am loving it.
    Loved the excerpt I need to get this book

    Have Fun

  16. Four children and four grandchildren! Now that's a quiver full.

    Being a grandparent is a different stage in the love>family cycle, isn't it.? The meaning of family expands, and, I think, simplifies.

    Originally, I meant for the grandfather in SEALed With a Ring to be only a catalyst. He turned out to be a major character--one who was only beginning to understand about the cycle.

  17. HI Mary Margaret!

    Fun topic! I come from a very small family. When I married, I gained a HUGE family. My hubs is portuguese. His dad is one of 80 first cousins! I can barely keep everyone straight and it's been 10yrs. lol So confusing, especially when gathered together! Chaos is what it is!

    While planning our wedding, My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out. LOL My folks joked that movie should have been switched to "Portuguese". I don't know how many times I watched that movie and saw parallels!

    Thanks for making me smile!

  18. Oh my gosh. 80 first cousins! What a "snapshot" that is.

  19. Wonderful Post! I loved your first 2 books & am looking forward to this one. I love looking at pictures. I love when we're all laughing at the same thing - that one pure moment when everyone is on the same page.

  20. Thanks, Mary G. You'll remember Davy, Ring's hero, from SEALed With a Promise, and you'll see others drop in for cameo appearances.

    I agree, the moments when everybody laughs at the same thing, and at the same time are priceless family "snapshots."

    BTW "Mary G" was my nickname when I was in college. Nobody knew why the "G" was suddenly tacked on. I didn't do it. No one else admitted to it. It just happened.

  21. Great excerpt, MM!
    Since both of my grandfathers died long before I was old enough to remember them and my parents were both only children, my family was never large, and while my husband's family keeps growing, mine has dwindled. A few years ago, we took a photo at Christmas of my sisters and me with my dad. He made the comment later that it was probably the last time we would all be together. We did our best to prove him wrong, but as it turned out, he was absolutely right. It just goes to show that you've got to cherish those snapshot moments while you can. They don't come along very often.