Yesterday, I returned from a trip back home. I grew up, and raised my family in central Illinois. Even though hubby and I are happily (ecstatically) relocated to the beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina, I can’t help thinking of “home” as the flat, fertile farmlands of Illinois. I escaped living there day-to-day, but, as they say, home is where the heart is.
Many of my family members have left the state, either due to job relocations or retirement choices. But a few remain. This past week we had a reunion to celebrate the upcoming arrival of my first grandchild with a baby shower! It was fun to see the gifts and well wishes that were showered on my future grandbaby and his mother and father; but it was also absolutely wonderful to reconnect with dear friends and family.
So much happens in the day to day lives of the people who you used to see all the time, after you move away. Here’s a short summary of some of the stories I heard over our four-day stay (the names have been removed to protect the innocent) and some photos from my visits:
A and B are so thrilled to welcome their first baby into the family. They struggled a little bit with fertility, which makes this pregnancy not only wanted, but urgently pursued. Over the last few years they’ve diligently renovated their home and it’s sparkling clean now with new paint, rugs and tile and all that’s left is the precious baby who will move into the nursery later this year.
C and D are a young couple who have recently moved into their first home. They came from a huge city where they were paying exorbitant rent to live in a small place. Now, in a smaller town, they can afford to buy their own house to enjoy and raise their family. C is extremely handy, so when they first took ownership of the home, they completely demolished the interior. He, and a few handy friends, replaced floors, ceilings, and walls on the top floor so the small family could move in. Meanwhile, work continues on the lower floor. I got to see the progress and was impressed by all the plans. How fun when they finish with a place completely renovated.
E and F are empty nesters now and are starting to think about their future. Will they move to the mountains? To the ocean? They love to ski and they love the beach, so maybe a combination. But they don’t want to drift too far away from their adult children and those adorable grandchildren who keep them hopping now! How exciting to be close to the end of their careers and looking ahead to whatever chapter comes next.
G and H have three kids — the first two have completed college and are beginning their careers in the big city. Number 3 has completed a year of college but the pandemic quarantine has put a damper on his plans. On an athletic scholarship for freshman year, the season was cancelled and he lost his funding. Now, he’s re-searching for the right school. This summer is vital to research and choose just the right school without sports. A lot is riding on his decision.
I is a bachelor who has been living on his own, working for seven years. When the quarantine hit, his life was quite isolated in his home. Now, he’s been given the exciting opportunity to move wherever he wants and continue working remotely, so he’s decided to move closer to family and start a whole new chapter for himself. He’s moving to the beach where he can golf and fish often during his off time. He has plans to buy a bigger home and welcome a couple dogs. The entire family is happy for him as he prepares his house to put on the market.
Oh, there were more stories shared with me … these are just a handful. But it’s so wonderful to hear people’s stories and then continue to think of them and keep in touch, even though we’re not physically close.
This family reunion has reminded me of book series based on big families. The series starts out with someone you get to know, and each subsequent book introduces more family members, and their lives and quests for love. As the series continues, you get peeks of family members you’ve already met, and how their lives have progressed since you last “talked” to them.
I asked my fellow InspyRomance authors for their favorites and here’s a reading list for you to check out:
Becky Wade’s A Porter Family Novel series: Excellent character development across the series, complex relationships that weren’t always perfect.
Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series: A variety of personalities, and the parents were solid, wisdom-giving characters as well.
Toni Shiloh’s Maple Run series: The mom is awesome and balances humor, expectations and values with lots of love and home cooking.
Valerie Comer’s Urban Farm Fresh Romance series: Twelve books about extended family members. The most-loved character in the series is Marietta, the no-nonsense Italian grandmother who keeps an eye on the whole neighborhood.
Elizabeth Maddrey’s Hope Ranch series takes a group of siblings who’ve grown up estranged from their grandparents, but one at a time, find their way there and find Jesus while they’re at it. The grandparents are the rock in the midst of these siblings’ storms and the glue that holds the series together.
My own series, Pawleys Island Paradise features Leslie Malone facing a lonely summer when her husband serves her with divorce papers. She takes a roadtrip, no destination in mind, and opens herself up to God’s will to help others along the way. She meets hunky beach house handyman Hank Harrison and finds a whole new lease on life.
And my series Murrells Inlet Miracles: A high-powered attorney. An inherited dilapidated horse ranch. A handsome veterinarian with a big secret. And a majestic stallion who unwittingly brings them all together.
What are your favorite big family series in CCR? Which ones made you feel like part of the family and you couldn’t wait to read the next installment so you could catch up with old friends? Which ones touched your heart and made you want to visit that place and chat with those folks? I’ll select one random commenter to receive Book 1 in either one of my family series listed above in your choice of format!