As some of you know, I was in DC this past week for my father-in-law’s funeral.
I lived in the DC area for twenty years before we moved to Wisconsin 11 years ago, so my husband—who hadn’t been back in ten years (I was there for a quick trip in 2014 for a conference, but didn’t have time to socialize or see the sights)—and I took some time to catch up with friends and wander around.
Matt and I met in college in DC and are part of an active group of alumni for a service organization we belonged to. Our college campus is recognizable—in fact barely different—from certain vantage points, but walk this way or that way, or inside a certain building or two, and you’d barely believe it’s the same place.
Both our sons were born in DC, at Columbia Hospital (which no longer exists). We lived in two different buildings on W Street in Glover Park when they were born, and we went to two small parks in the neighborhood. One is now a giant park, and one is attached to the formerly dilapidated neighborhood elementary school which now has two enormous modern wings attached to it.
For our visit, we stayed with Matt’s sister who lives in Silver Spring, MD—the same Maryland suburb where we lived for the five years before we moved. We checked in at our old church in Gaithersburg and met some friends there.
When we moved from DC, it was very sudden. From the time we had the idea to the day we closed on a new house halfway across the country, it was two months. In many ways, we weren’t able to say good-bye—to people and places we loved, to the sites that had been a huge part of our children’s lives, to so many bits of our family’s history that we couldn’t get to before we left. And, for my husband, there was always the pull of home in DC, especially while his father was alive.
We said good-bye again this week, in so many ways. It was warm and wonderful, and terrible and painful.
But if there was one thing that was absolutely clear, it was that change always happens.
For the good and the bad; for the ups and the downs.
Sometimes change is quick and sometimes it’s slow; sometimes it’s abrupt and cataclysmic, sometimes it’s slow and barely noticeable over time.
But it’s always there.
As a country we’re in a season of change. As individuals, we always face changes, whether we want to deal with them or not. But they're always there.
I had my share of teary moments in the past week. Saying hello and goodbye, checking in to places that were so vastly different from what we left behind that we had to look hard for the kernels and shadows of what we once knew.
But as hard as it was sometimes to face the changes, and to know that people we were once as thick as thieves with are now people we have a hard time keeping track of on Facebook, I also know that my family is in a good place now. That changes and choices that were hard to make also moved us forward, and brought other friends and opportunities into our lives. Life is always changing, and we’re always having to adapt. The older I get, the more I realize it often really is about attitude and optimism and that kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness are mixed in there too.
Change is coming. Change is always coming. As my #ProfessionalRomanceFan friend Stephanie nearly always says—and inspires me with—in her FB posts:
Surely good words to live by.
I wanted to mention two books that highlight the chaos unexpected change can bring and how grace, authenticity, and strength of character can make a huge difference in how we navigate through.
Beverly Jenkins’ Breathless (which received a Kirkus star) releases on the 31st. Harper Collins sent me an audio copy, and I agree it was terrific. Portia Carmichael is happy with her life outside Tucson, Arizona and has pretty much sworn off men, but that’s before her uncle and aunt (Rhine and Edie from last year’s Forbidden, which also received a star) welcome Kent Randolph—an old family friend from their time in Virginia City, Nevada—into their home and offer him a job. Kent and Portia quickly fall in love, but must contend with would-be beaux, disgruntled landowners, systemic racism, and renegade Apaches. After a difficult childhood, Portia has to decide to trust men again and is helped by Kent’s compassion, patience, and support, particularly his encouragement for her to start her own business.
Jenkins’ book is a compelling, fascinating read and she brings her typical research rigor and her inimitable capacity to weave historical details into the storyline in authentic and resonant ways. She writes about things and people who have largely been forgotten and were never celebrated in traditional history books. Her great writing and storytelling bring them to life on the page and champion their accomplishments and triumphs; her resolute determination to remind us why that’s important is salient and inspiring.
I listened to my second title from Taylor Jenkins Reid this week, One True Loves. Jenkins Reid is a great author, but what she excels at is taking an idea and turning it on its side and writing about it. Do you remember Helen Hunt’s role in Castaway? The fiancée left behind, who marries someone else and has a baby? So when Tom Hanks comes back, they have no path together, despite the fact that he’s “the love of her life.”
In One True Loves, Emma has lost her husband Jesse, and, now, after years of mourning and completely retuning her life, she has moved on and is engaged. However, Jesse is not dead and has been stranded on an island. When he comes back, Emma has to figure out what to do with the two men she loves.
Now that’s unexpected change!
Isn’t this a great first line?
"I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls."
The book received rave reviews when it came out last June, and I requested it from my library on Overdrive. Apparently it was just approved a couple of weeks ago and appeared in my queue, but I’m happy to say it’s just as enjoyable in winter as it must have been last summer.
I highly recommend the book and this author, who takes a fascinating idea and twists it into great storytelling.
Lots of great upcoming books - what are you reading this week?