When I was a little girl, our family spent most weekends “down in the country.” This was, and still is, how my parents referred to the area where they grew up in Southern Maryland. Though we lived just ten minutes outside of Washington, DC, my parents always thought of St. Mary’s County as home. I came to feel the same way after spending so much of my childhood there. In fact, even as an adult, the dreams in which I am “at home” often take place at my grandparents’ house. My mother tells me that at the end of each weekend, I would cling to my grandfather’s legs and beg him not to let my parents take me back with them. While my parents are THE BEST, all I wanted was to be with my grandparents.
As I got older, I spent many, many weekends and extended summer stays with Granddad and Gram, as I always referred to my grandmother. Much of that time was spent crabbing, fishing, or “helping” Granddad with his tobacco crop.
When I was fifteen, we moved from the DC suburbs back to Southern Maryland, and I lived with my grandparents most of the summer until my parents went to settlement and moved into our new house. I got up early most mornings to join Granddad on the water, went shopping with Gram, made new friends, and even got my first kiss that summer. Leaving to go home to begin a new life in a new house and a new school was exciting, but I would have been content to just stay in that little cookie cutter farmhouse with its one bathroom and add-on bedrooms smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Through high school and college, I continued my summer visits, taking off from my summer job one week each summer to spend time in the country. My grandfather passed away the fall of my freshman year of college, and those visits became even more special. It was just Gram and me, and we both loved every minute of it. We cried each time we said goodbye.
After I had Rebecca and then her sisters, we continued the summer tradition, and the girls and I all spent a week down in the country. Often, we would bring Gram back with us, and she would spend a week with us here on the Shore. Just like when I was little, there were always tears when we said goodbye. I wanted to do just as did when I was a toddler, and wrap my arms around her legs and beg her not to leave. Saying goodbye was always hard, but not as hard as the final goodbye when Gram went to her true home in Heaven.
Now, I’m a mother of three grown daughters–one of them married–an empty nester, and full-time writer. Though it’s been years since I visited the little farmhouse where I spent so much of my childhood, I still love going home. In fact, I’m writing today from my mother’s dining room where my laptop rests on the same tablecloth I wrote about last week. I’m here for a few days, but I know that when I leave, my mother will cry and ask when I’m coming back. Just like when I was little and Mom went home every weekend to see her parents, there never seems to be enough time spent with my parents, time when we can just enjoy being together, talking, laughing, remembering the past, and wondering about the future. That’s why, in 2019, I made a resolution to visit my parents for several days each month, and I spent the entire year keeping that promise to them and to myself. Then 2020 arrived… Times spent with Mom and Dad were few and far between, and each holiday, birthday, or weekend we would have been together, I was reminded of the passing of time. How many more visits do we have? It’s a question I don’t want answered.
My oldest, Rebecca, got married in September. She and Anthony are learning to live together, enjoying that splendid honeymoon period, creating meals together, training their puppy, and have started house hunting. They lead busy lives despite the pandemic, but, like my mother and I, Rebecca and I manage to talk on the phone just about every day. Last weekend, when we were talking, I mentioned that her grandmother, aunt, and uncle were coming for dinner that night and we were going to have a game night. Less than two hours later, the door opened, and Rebecca’s puppy bounded into the house, followed by Rebecca, overnight bag in hand. As soon as I told her what we were doing, she went to her new husband and told him that she wanted to go home for the night to be with her family. He had things to do, otherwise, he would have joined her. I couldn’t help but be reminded of those weekends long, long ago when we piled into the car and drove to Grandma’s house for the weekend just to be together.
When I was packing for this trip to Mom’s, I said to Ken, “I’m only going for three days, and it never seems like enough.” I stopped and thought about all the times I’ve come to visit, and Mom cried when I left. I thought about my clinging to Granddad’s legs and how our weeks with Gram were never long enough. I looked at my husband and said, “I now understand completely how my mother feels, how her mother must have always felt. When Rebecca was home last weekend, I didn’t want her to leave. Two or three days isn’t enough.” I told that to Mom last night, and she agreed. We spend eighteen years, sometimes more, helping our children to grow, watching them spread their wings, practically pushing them from the nest, and then… they’re gone. Times together become fleeting moments that are over in the blink of an eye.
If 2020 has taught us anything, I hope it’s that we can’t take the time we have together for granted. So many people lost loved ones. So many of us went for months (some for almost a year at this point) without seeing family. Once the world is righted again, I hope that everyone takes the time to go home, to spend time with their families, to go crabbing or fishing with Dad or Granddad, or to go shopping with Mom or Grandma. I hope everyone has a new appreciation for their parents and grandparents as well as for their growing children. I pray that everyone has a new outlook on what it means to love and cherish. I pray that we will all try to spend more quality time together.
In a world that seems so devoid of love, so bent on destruction, and so embroiled in hatred and malice and fear, it is crucial that we build families who truly love each other. I’m praying that 2021 is the year we all begin doing just that. As the old saying goes, you never know what you have until it’s gone. Time is fleeting. Spend it the best way you can–with those you love.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).