“The family is the first essential cell of human society.” –Pope John XXIII
Have truer words ever been spoken? Where would I be without my family? Though I put God first and foremost in my life, I would be nothing, have nothing, achieve nothing, and live for nothing if not for my family. Not seeing most of my extended family for over a year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in life. Thankfully, that long, dry period ended this past weekend.
On Saturday, we hosted a graduation party for our middle child, Katie Ann. She graduated in May from Mount St. Mary’s University, but we wanted to give our family a little more time to be comfortable in a large gathering, so we asked them all to save the date for August 21. It made my day to get responses like, “I told the rest of the family they could do whatever they wanted, but I will be there come hell or high water,” and “I’m done with not seeing everyone.” We were all determined to be together, and not even a potential tropical storm was going to keep us apart.
Opera great, Robert Breault, is attributed with saying, “What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering.” And he was so right.
There are few things our family enjoys more during the summer than crabbing in the rivers and creeks that extend from the great Chesapeake Bay like multiple fingers from a hand. These offshoots, consisting of salt, fresh, and brackish waters, are as much a part of Ken and me as the blood that runs through our veins. I come from a long line of watermen and boat builders dating back to the Ark and the Dove that landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634. Much of my family history was woven into my book, The Devil’s Fortune. Ken began working as an apprentice on a crabbing boat when he was eleven and owned his own boat by the time he was fifteen. Our girls are water creatures, especially our youngest, a champion swimmer and proud holder of a boating license since she was twelve.
As much as our family enjoys crabbing together, what we enjoy even more is taking other people crabbing. There’s something about it that appeals to people on so many levels that it’s akin to a spiritual event. In fact, our former Associate Pastor, Father Olsen, summed it up best several years ago. After we went crabbing, steamed our catch, and sat down to eat, he said a blessing over the food. He thanked God for the experience of harvesting, cooking, and feasting on God’s earthly bounty. It was such a beautiful moment that I still think of it each time I sit down to eat our catch.
What a difference a year makes! Last Mother’s Day, I cried most of the day. I had not seen my mother since Christmas, and I’m used to seeing her a few times a month. It was even harder because my brothers live close to my parents and were able to stop by, but I am two hours away. I knew that others had it worse than I did, and there are some who are just now seeing their families for the first time in over a year, so I count myself among the very blessed. However, I’m still the happiest girl in the world that I got to spend Mother’s Day this year with my mom, the most special person on earth.
I know, you’re all thinking, my mom is the most special person on earth, and I bet you’re all right.
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.
This morning, my mother began taking down her Christmas decorations. As she frequently does this time of year, she replaced the decorations on her dining room table with the tablecloth that her mother-in-law made for her as a wedding present.
This tablecloth, with hours of love crocheted into every knot and loop, is one of my mother’s most prized possessions. She lost her mother-in-law less than ten years after she and my father wed, but Grandma Mac lives on every year when that tablecloth graces my parents’ table. For fifty-seven years, this tablecloth has been not only a beautiful reminder of my grandmother but a witness to baby showers and wedding plans and family dinners and all the sorrow and joy that comes from being part of a family.
One of my favorite memories as a little girl is of baking and decorating sugar cookies with my mom. Baking them for Christmas is a tradition I’ve taken over, and now my girls and I are the sugar cookie providers for our family and friends. Every Christmas, we do a huge cookie swap dinner with the mothers and daughters we are closest to. It’s something we look forward to all year long–planning, preparing, baking, cooking, decorating, and then finally enjoying. This year would have been our sixteenth cookie swap, and my girls and I are so disappointed that we won’t be able to have it under the current circumstances. However, we certainly will be baking our sugar cookies because they are more than cookies.
Life goes on, just as the Beatles song tells us. No matter what happens in the world, people continue to live their lives as best they can, and they should.
For the mental and emotional stability of everyone, we need to remain optimistic and live our lives as normally as possible.
I recently read the delightful book, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. The fictional novel, set during WWII told of dances and nights out with friends and girls painting their legs to look like they were wearing stockings. Of course, it also depicted the air raids over London and the devastation of war, but what struck me was the reminder that even during war, life goes on. People fall in love and get married. Babies are born. Lives are lived.
This past weekend, I attended a retreat at the beautiful St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic Church in Madison, New Jersey. With all the craziness of the past few months, it was a welcome treat to be able to spend twenty-six hours in prayer and reflection and listen to the stories of other women who are at various stages in their prayer lives. It made me realize how blessed I am in so many ways, and it made me realize just what true love is… Read more →
They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?
Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?
I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.
This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.
Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.
I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.
It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.
This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.
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 Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas 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 a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.
This week is Holy Week throughout the Christian world. It’s the week where we are reminded just how much God loves us. It’s the week that the past several weeks of Lent have been leading up to–the crescendo in the opus of God’s masterpiece about love. How remarkable that it was late in Lent when I was given the beautiful gift of realizing why what I do is so special, why my writing is so meaningful to me and to many others, and why it’s all about love.Read more →